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Outlaws finish a marathon day to claim bronze

2014 / 12 / 15

Coming into this tournament the Outlaws were tied for 28th in Ontario (out of 97 teams) starting out the season as the 37th ranked team based on their 2014 15U Ontario Championship finish.

When there are 97 teams in the province competing in an age group there is only 9 teams in Premier, 27 teams in Championship and the remaining 61 teams are competing in Trillium. To further compound the log-jam the OVA does not have a Premier level competition for the first OVA tournament of the year (except at 18U) thus all teams are moved down a tier automatically hence the Outlaws started out in Trillium. In order to move up to the Championship tier the Outlaws had to finish first or second, which they did.

It only gets harder to move up from Championship to Premier as only the gold medalists in the Championship tier can join the top 9 as Premier only relegates three teams at the conclusion of each tournament to the Championship tier. It is difficult to make it to the Premier level on the girls side unless it is done at the earlier age groups. This is evidence by the number of traditional Ontario powerhouse Clubs participating in this Championship tier; clubs like DRVC, Durham Attack, Leaside Lightning, Markham Stingers and Phoenix.

The Outlaws came into the tournament as the third seeded team and finished with the bronze medal. On the surface it sounds easy but it was far from it! The Outlaws played 6 matches on the day all but two were pushed to three sets and of the 6 matches 5 were back-to-back. The Outlaws showed their resilience throughout the day.

The day started out with a tight first set loss against the 15U Markham Wasps (highly ranked at their own age group) team 24-26. The second set was much more lopsided for us where we bounced back and won 25-16. We quickly forgot the lesson that we learned from the first set taking the Wasps a little too lightly and not bringing our pace of play to them like we did in the second set. We were lulled into their pace of play and they were sound defensively and did not let a ball hit the floor. Not much style points but they earned points on the scoreboard where it mattered most and won 15-10.

After the only break we would have all day we were matched up against a very physical Phoenix Flare team. It is unlikley that we will face another team as physical and athletic as Phoenix this year. They played the same brand of volleyball as we try to play and we knew it was going to be a battle. We came out strong and won the first set 25-15.  The second set was much tighter and the quality of volleyball played by both teams was high and the score went back and forth and the Phoenix closed it out with a 22-25 score. This set up a third set where we were the feature court for the whole tournament as all the matches in our pool went to three matches thus the only set being played as the other teams were on break.

Both teams exchanged point for point in the third set but unfortunately our passing left us for one rotation and we weren’t able to transition to offense and lost 12-15. With both losses in pool play we finished pool play in third and had to play a pre-quarter to advance to the playoff bracket and a loss meant that the best we could finish was 7th and relegation to Trillium for the next tournament. The bulk of the Outlaws experienced this very scenario last year and was not allowing this to happen to them again. With less than 15 minutes to eat and hydrate the Outlaws hit the court against the Fusion Explosion.

Determined not to be relegated the Outlaws dictated their pace of play against the Fusion and won 25-9 and 25-20. That pre-quarter win set off a three-match marathon for the Outlaws. Things got significantly harder in the quarter final match when the Outlaws were matched up against the top seeded DRVC team who also had their own three set battles in pool play.

DRVC came out strong and showed the Outlaws why they were the top seeded team at the tournament with a 10 point run against the Outlaws. The Outlaws never gave up and fought their way for the remainder of the match and lost 17-25. Oddly enough, the momentum was with the Outlaws after that loss and we came out with a 7 point serving run from Kira (“KT”) Taylor and another 5 point serving run from Mia (“Hammy”) Workman. Hammy caught on fire on the right side and finally began to show in match play her flashes of brilliance in the practice gym. She scored off of the blocker’s hands, with off speed shots and some thundering slams down the line. Our primary passers delivered the ball to our setter allowing her to distribute the ball to our attackers. We won the second set by a score of 25-13.

The third set started with two serving point runs from both sides, DRVC had a 4 point run to lead the match 2-7 but once we were able to side them out Sam had her own 7 point run to ensure that we had the lead 9-7.  DRVC took a red card after what they felt was questionable call and that awarded us a point and from there we lead 13-8. DRVC would continue to fight and tied it up at 13s but the Outlaws would not let up and won 15-13.

The semi final had us pitted against the Leaside Lightning who had been resting and watching our match against DRVC. The emotional come from behind win against from DRVC came crashing down and we lost the first set 17-25. We fought our way in the second set and won 25-21. This set up yet another third and deciding set on the day. Our passing had left us by this point and Leaside was able to put us out of system often. We did however manage to earn our first pack of the season when Hammy found their setter standing in defense and slammed a cross-court ball at her. Unfortunately we were not able to pull out another third set win and lost 13-15.

Extremely disappointed and tired the Outlaws emptied their “tanks” and pushed for a bronze medal against the Phoenix with some tough serving from KT and Hammy (both had 7 point runs), Sam (4 point run) and Shannon (3 point run) we won 25-17. The second set was a great set with the teams battling point for point down 15-18 the Outlaws began to fight and outscored their opponents 10-5 to win 25-23.

With the bronze the Outlaws are now ranked at least 18th in Ontario moving up 10 spots and taking another step towards their goal of joining the top 9 teams in Ontario at 16U.

We now reset and continue our training plan to address our weaknesses for the 2015 portion of the season.

A huge thank you for the coaches, athletes and the parents for your support and dedication to date and we wish to and your family a happy and healthy holidays.

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“ Nobody's a natural. You work hard to get good and then work hard to get better. ”
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