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Club News Story
 

Recap of our pre-season

2016 / 11 / 15

What a busy September and October and now half of November it has been!

The 2016/2017 edition of the Maverick Blackjacks are comprised of 10 very dedicated and hard working young ladies. With the offers extended and accepted by September 19th we were ready to go the following week to start a very long eight month season. We would like to thank Isabelle and Tiana for helping us develop last season, without your hard work and dedication to the 2015/2016 Ambush we would have not been able to accomplish our goals. We also would like to thank Louise and Victoria for their countless hours of support, coaching and helping us all to develop last season.

As is the norm in sport every new season brings with it optimism, change, new challenges to overcome and goals to set and to achieve. We were fortunate to add Charlotte Arsenault to the roster, “Rookie” was impressive at tryouts and has not disappointed in pre-season training and competition. Charlotte is a product of our Club’s 2014 initiative to run a half season team to allow athletes who missed tryouts in September to train and compete for the second half of the season. That initiative will be in its third season this year and clearly shows that it does not matter when you join it’s how hard you work to get better.

The next three changes are subtle and can not be seen on the floor but the impact that our three new coaches are making has had an immediate impact in our training.

We added:

1. Emma Armstrong, a former Maverick (Class of 2010) and University of Toronto Varsity Blue. Emma is responsible for our outside hitters, serve and serve receive as well as our defense.

2. Brian Cooney, a long time coach who came out of coaching retirement last season, is responsible for working with athletes in a one-on-one setting during practice to address technical deficiencies as well as responsible for our in-game tracking of opponents and pre-match scouting.

3. Derek Kuiak, a former CIS middle for Laurier University and the University of Western Ontario (CIS silver medalist), is responsible for our middle blockers and our team blocking schemes.

For the early part of our season, we trained in smaller groups which allowed us plenty of touches and feedback from the coaches. Very beneficial as we are also able to get tricks and pointers from coaches who have played the positions at a very high level.

The following is a recap of our pre-season to date.

October 2016

Coach John had committed the team to do the minor officiating for the University of Ottawa Gee Gees tournament the first weekend in October. It was a great team builder as well it gave us the opportunity to see university teams from all four conferences in Canada compete. We were also given the opportunity to train with Michelle Wood, Head Coach Acadia University, who worked with us on our serve and serve receive.

The highlight for October for us was our team building day at the Armstrong farm where we were able to feed the horses, carve some pumpkins and set our team rules, expectations and goals for this season. Fun was had by all including our parents who were waiting for us at the bonfire. Special thanks to Debra and Barry Armstrong for hosting us at their beautiful farm.

The weekend of October 22-23, 2016 was suppose to be an opportunity to host the Libellules team and a rematch of our National Bronze medal match. Unfortunately, the Libellules were not able to travel and we ended up having some intra-Club matches with our sister team the 16U Wildcards along with 15U Ambush and 15U Stampede. No doubt it was weird not to cheer for the Ambush that weekend as we have been used to all of last season.

On October 24, 2016 we had an opportunity to play the women’s team at Algonquin College. Coach John is always looking for opportunities for us to play bigger, stronger and more experienced teams so he reached out to Coach Everton and a match was arranged at Algonquin College. We were intimidated as the Thunder women have many more years of experience than we had but we realized that its volleyball and once we lined up at the net with them they didn’t seem as big as they appeared when we were on our side fighting jitters, fears and nervousness. We opened up with a respectable 22-25 loss, won the second by a score of 25-23, won the third 25-18 and loss the third 9-15. Not a bad showing having split with the Algonquin women. Thank you to Coach Everton and the Algonquin women for fitting us into their preparation schedule, it’s much appreciated.

November 2016

Our first pre-season was competition was the Omnium Vert & Or in Sherbrooke the weekend of November 5th and 6th. It was our first opportunity to test our defensive and offensive systems against opponents other than our team mates, coaches and Stephanie (who help round out our scrimmage squad).

We took advantage of the tournament having 16U competition on Saturday and 17U competition on Sunday to stay the whole weekend in Sherbrooke, besides we had the best motel accommodations money could buy!

The big take away for us on Saturday was we can be on average 5 inches taller than our opponents but Quebec teams can play defence, unless the ball is buried into the playing surface our Quebec competition will dig it up and continue the rally often times to our shock and awe. Their style of play provided us insight into how important defence is and how they can overcome a massive size difference by their sheer will to keep the ball off the floor.

We finished first in our pool with a set record of 5-1.

• Noir et or de Boucherville (25-15 and 25-14)

• Fuzion-Grazini de Moncton (25-19 and 25-15)

• Mousquetaires du Lac Mégnatic (25-10 and 24-26)

In the quarter final we met the Impact du CDSL who had finished second in their pool behind the Wildcards. The Impact combined size with solid defensive play and beat us 22-25 in set one. It was a well played set however ball control was an issue early for us and we could not regroup for the comeback. With our passing woes addressed we cruised to a second and third set victory (25-18 and 15-9) to set up a rematch of our National bronze medal match from last season against the Libellules.

Our ball control and serve receive difficulties made a re-appearance in the first set and once again we lost the opening set of the semi-final 18-25. Our second set was absolutely flawless, our passing was spot on and we were able to run our offense and score early and often. Although the score of 25-18 would make it seem close the bulk of their 18 points where scored when the set was already out of reach. With the big second set win we carried all the momentum into the third set. We started the third set with a huge and we mean huge slam from our left side that was an inch out. Ok no problem, we receive serve again, another huge slam and this time centimetres out. Before we knew it we slammed 8 balls out (by a hair) to spot the Libellules an eight point lead. We fought but the 8 point lead spotted on 8 unforced errors was too much to overcome in a match to 15, we lost 6-15.

Our bronze medal match was against the Mousquetaires du Lac Mégnatic who split with us in pool play. We were able to defeat them in straight sets 25-21 and 25-17 to claim our first medal of the season.

Sunday morning, fueled by a delicious yet late meal from the night before (thank you daylight savings!) we were ready to face the 17U competition.

This was the first of three 17U Quebec competitions that we will compete in this season. Coach John decided to change the norm of playing up an age group in Ontario and facing the same 16U teams that we play in our 16U OVA schedule while driving 5 plus hours to southwestern Ontario. The Quebec circuit offers new competition and significantly decreases our travel times.

Sunday was also Coach Emma’s debut as our head coach for the day, she and Coach John switched roles and will be doing that often this season. It was also the debut of Coach Brian on the bench, his insight on what the opposition’s in-game tendencies are will be very helpful this season.

We opened up the day with a very lopsided loss to the host Avalanche de Sherbrooke 13-25. We were unable to put serving pressure on them and they were able to get the ball to their very effective left side who was able to put away balls for points. We had just put in our defensive system days before and were unable to adjust effectively to address their left side attack. Reset…set two was a completely different story we put their serve receive under pressure and that meant we were able to put up the big Ontario wall and that posed issues for their left side. We won the second by a more lopsided score of 25-10 and with only two sets being played in pool play we won the points split and the tie breaker.

Our second match was against the Aigles de Jean-Eudes a very solid ball control team with a more balanced offence. Once again the first set was a challenge for us with ball control, we either were not able to control our first contact or when forced to “play” the ball from a dig we panicked and where called on doubles or gave back an easy free ball for them to transition and score. We lost the first set 15-25. We found our passing and ball control and bounced back and were able to compete in the second and won 25-19, unfortunately not winning the point spread which would have further ramifications later in the day.

Our third match was against the Volti de Drummondville where they were successful at slowing down our pace of play and we were happy to trade “ugly” exchange with “ugly” exchange. Not our finest volleyball but we pulled out a two set victory 25-18 and 25-16.

Our final match was against the eventual gold medalists Attaque de Trois-Rivieres. They were very big in the middle, had a crafty setter and an undersized right side that we could not contain. Once again our first ball contact and our ball control in general was very poor in the match. Our experienced ball control surviving opponents honed in on our weaker passers and ball control players and put pressure on them to pass and play the ball. Regardless of how we tried to adjust our serve receive they seemed to find the passers that they had identified and wanted to exploit. It was a great effort but we lost 18-25 and 15-25 to a much more experienced team. With that straight set loss and losing our split with the Aigles that had us finishing third in our pool.

Our quarter final match up was against the Noir et or de De Mortagne. This team relied on one dominant left side and we were able to limit the damage she inflicted to us in the first set and squeaked out a tight 27-25 win, she took control of the second set and we were beaten handily 13-25. Going into the third set we knew that we would have success if we are able to serve tough to ensure that the Noir et or could not run their dominant left side, unfortunately for us only half of our line-up was able to execute the tough serves needed to limit their left side’s impact on the match losing 13-15 in the third. After our match our coaches were able to speak with the other coaches and we learned that our pool was the pool of “death” and much stronger than the other pool of 5. Little consolation to us but the eventual gold and bronze medalists came from our pool.

We learned a lot playing at the 17U age group in Quebec:

1. Defence alone will win matches, very simple game try to keep more balls off the floor on your side than your opponents do on their side.

2. Our huge size advantage is only good if we are effective at blocking and efficient at attacking.

3. A ball hitting the court at 100 MPHs will get the audience screaming with excitement but a smart shot in that scores counts for the same  - one point.

4. We need to have consistent serving pressure throughout our line-up

5. Our weaker serve receivers and general ball control athletes have no place to hide on the court. They will be exposed by the smaller stronger ball control teams as that is their survival strategy.

6. We can not exchange ugly play with ugly play – we will lose in that exchange. We need to be like Mike.

7. We can compete very well at the 17U age group in Quebec. If the attention that our athletes garnered from university coaches were any indication, playing in Quebec will be very good to us.

This week we have scrimmages lined up against the 15U Ambush and 18U Broncos where we learn to be both Buster and Mike. Mental skills that we need to be able to turn on when we need them.

Our first OVA is slated for November 27, 2016 in Scarborough where we will be able to see Ontario competition for the first time this season.

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“ My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging. ”
– Hank Aaron
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