Early on in the week Team Alberta North showed themselves to be the team to beat. No one came closer than Yukon.
Alberta North dominated in junior male volleyball, taking gold with a 25-16, 25-21, 25-19 win over Yukon at the Arctic Winter Games on Friday.
“We had no idea what the competition was like coming in here, it’s always a big mystery, and after the round-robin we thought we might have a chance (and) the tough competition was going to be Alberta,” said Yukon head coach Peter Grundmanis. “We lost to them two times in the round-robin, and we thought the third time when we meet them in the final it might be a different story, but we came up a little short.”
Alberta North went undefeated at the tournament with 12 consecutive wins. They didn’t drop a set the entire tournament with 20 straight in the round-robin and another six straight in their two best-of-five playoff matches.
Alberta North also took gold in the junior female division.
“The team on the other side was very good and played pretty much error free,” said Grundmanis. “Any time we made a small mistake, they capitalized on it, and that was the difference.”
Yukon, who walked away with silver, put up a fight in the final. Down 11-4 in the first set, Yukon chipped away at the Alberta lead to move to within three at 17-14. Yukon left-side Cody Park led a lot of his team’s attacks with a barrage of kills and tricky tips.
“I think Cody Park really stepped it up today and for the tournament,” said Yukon captain/middle Kyle Wallace.
Yukon jumped out to a 5-3 lead – their only of the match – in the second set before a five-point run by Alberta North put them back in a deficit.
Throughout the match Yukon would close the gap before Alberta North went on a run and pulled away again.
“They just went on too many runs and we couldn’t keep coming back up to that level,” said Wallace.
“We definitely played a decent game, so there’s nothing to be too upset about, but the loss was tough.”
Yukon reached the final with a 25-16, 25-13, 25-8 over Nunavut on Thursday. Nunavut went on to take bronze with a five-set win over Alaska.
“That was probably one of our best executing games,” said Grundmanis. “That one wasn’t as difficult, but we played a good match to get in (the final).”
Yukon placed second behind Alberta North in the round-robin with a 7-3 record. In addition to two losses to Alberta, Yukon dropped a three-set match against Alaska to end the round-robin.
Yukon was the defending gold medal team, having won the tournament at the 2012 Games for the first time in 26 years.
“It was a great experience,” said Wallace. “I’m glad we were in the gold medal game and I’m glad I was representing Yukon, for sure.”
Yukon’s female volleyball team was eliminated from the tournament in their final round-robin game with a 27-25, 25-19 loss to Team Northwest Territories on Thursday.
“I’m very proud. The girls finished stronger than they started, which was amazing for our team,” said Yukon head coach Kasia Leary. “I’m sad it’s over and I’m exhausted, but they played so hard. Our big thing was in the end they wanted to play classy and fight right to the end, and I think they did that.”
Yukon finished the round-robin with a 1-9 record. Their one win came in their first match in Fairbanks, beating Nunavut 26-24, 25-22.
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