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Club News Story
 

Small margin for error at this level

2017 / 01 / 23

We had our first Premier tournament of the 16U season on January 14th. The whole age group was lucky as we had an extra week to work off the Christmas turkey and delicious baking that we all enjoyed over the two week break. Some age groups were not as fortunate as ours as they had to compete the weekend before school started up again.

We had two practices to shake the rust off quickly for arguably the highest level of 16U girls’ volleyball competition in the country. As one of two wildcards, next highest third place teams from the November 27, 2016 tournament, we were seeded 8th for the tournament along with Leaside who was seeded second and London Fire who were the fifth seed. By the end of the day after the dust settled this pool ended up being the “pool of death” in a very close tournament draw. Absent from the event were the Halton Hurricanes, defending National East and Ontario Champions. Their absence opened the door for the 10th seeded Scorpions to enter the tournament as the second wildcard as the ninth seed.

 

We are a team that tries to stick to a routine one of which is our warm up prior to tournaments. We make our bed every day (https://youtu.be/pxBQLFLei70). Unfortunately, the school was not opened until 8:20 AM which meant that we could have had an extra 30 minutes of sleep instead of sitting in an idling car in a packed parking lot of anxious athletes and parents waiting for the doors to open.

The doors are finally unlocked and we rush to get changed and warmed up for our fist match against Leaside. The last time the two teams met was last season in a Nationals quarterfinal where we were finally able to squeak out a two set victory. We had lost to Leaside all season prior to that match. Both teams are very familiar with one another as the nucleus of the teams are the same with the exception of the annual fall GTA Club musical chairs landed three new starters for Leaside.

The first set was up and down for both teams, with two-three point leads being given and then closed up. We were our worst opponents as we helped Leaside by contributing 14 points (unforced errors) to their 25-18 set one win. The second set was much more lopsided as Leaside increased their level of exclusion and we continued to make unforced errors, usually not a good combination for wins in volleyball. We lost the second set by a score of 16-25.

We had to bounce back quickly as we had a match against the London Fire right away. We last played the Fire in power pool at the 2015 Ontario Championships where we won in straight sets (25-18, 25-10). The Fire have revamped their roster adding a Team Ontario setter (played for Forest City 16U last season – Ontario silver medalists) and a few 17U aged athletes who are eligible to play at the 16U age group this season to an already strong core of players from last season. Their qualification into 17U Premier is a sign that they are a team to be considered a favourite at any 16U tournament. We were down for most of the first set at one point we were down 6 points however we fought to make the score respectable in losing the first set 18-25. The second set was a repeat of the first with the Fire leading for most of the set however we fought hard to come back and take the second set 25-23 to force a third and deciding set.

We usually don`t want to spoil the suspense but the final score of the third set was 15-10 for us. The story of how we got there is truly amazing. We had won the coin toss and our captain elected to have serve for the third set. Sydney was our first server and coach John called for her to serve short to a location – well Sydney served to that location 11 times with each serve putting our opponents into more pressure to transition as we where able to put up three blocks to their only attacking option or capitalized on the free ball that we were getting in return. Once we lost serve we had an 11-1 lead. As you already know the score Fire came back and had a run of a few points, we would side out for a point and they would side us out and go on a point run. Was it possible for us to squander a 10 point lead in the third set? Kudos to Fire for their fight but we were able to close out the set and match 15-10. That win put us at 1 and 1 and earned us second in the pool. More importantly Coach Emma earned her first of undoubtedly many more Premier level wins as the “bench coach” with our victory over Fire.

Now it was on to the critical quarterfinal, win it and we would be assured at a minimum a top four placement and lose it and it would be nerve wracking matches to earn that coveted tied for 5th place and the reward for staying in Premier.

Earlier we said that this was likely the highest level of 16U girls volleyball played in the country outside of Nationals. Our quarter final opponent were the Scorpions who are the defending National East silver medalist, we blew a 9-3 lead in the third set of a power pool match at the same Nationals. We lost that match and settled for second place in our power pool. This was going to be a tight match as the Scorpions also re-tweaked their lineup from last season. We came out on the right end of a tight first set by a score of 25-23, once again coming from behind for most of the set for the win. The second set started out slow for us again and we never really built up any sustained momentum and lost 21-25. On to the third and deciding set where we started out shaky but hit our stride on two big and smart plays from Ellie in the middle and won the third set 15-9.

It was on to a rematch of our pool play for the semi-finals where we would face the Fire who themselves narrowly escaped with a three set win over Defensa 17-15. Defensa finished 7th and will face relegation and they were within two points of beating the eventual silver medalists. 16U Premier this season will be about who shows up to play on any given tournament day. The top 10 teams are strong and any one of them can medal if they are playing well or be relegated if they are not, it will be very exciting this season.

Our first set against Fire followed the same script as all of our matches that day, we would start slow, fight in the middle and towards the end of the set but we ran out of points or run-way for the complete comeback losing 23-25. In the second set Fire executed very well and we were not up to the challenge and lost by a lopsided 16-25 score to a team that was on a roll.

The bronze medal match was against a very familiar opponent in the Titans. Both teams were able to work our full line ups into the match after a long and very competitive day. The Titans won the bronze by identical scores of 21-25.

We were able to:

1.     Remain in Premier (which will be a challenge each and every tournament)

2.     Improve on our 8th seeding coming into the tournament

3.     Prove that we belong in a group of 10 teams in Ontario who can compete for a medal on any given day.

Once again, thank you to our parents and family for their continued support!

 

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