Bronze ulu bittersweet for volleyballers

SOLDOTNA, Alaska ‘It’s the end of an era,” said Yukon volleyball player Denis Boyd shortly after winning the bronze ulu over…


‘It’s the end of an era,” said Yukon volleyball player Denis Boyd shortly after winning the bronze ulu over Nunavut Friday at Skyview High School.

“The win itself isn’t as important, this is the last time most of us are going to get to play together,” he said.

Even after they took Nunavut in three sets in the final match, the boys of Team Yukon lingered in the gym.

They just didn’t want this experience to end, said head coach Sukh Sandhu.

“They never stick around after a game, and they’re still sitting out there.”

“There’s a core group of us that have been playing together pretty much since Grade 8 and we knew that this could be our last game together,” said Boyd.

In the final match, the Yukoners expected Nunavut to come out with guns blazin’, but instead they played a little flat.

Team Yukon, however, brought its A game and trounced Nunavut in the first two sets of the best-of-five match. With the win pretty much in the bag, the Yukoners slowed the game down a little in the third set to savour their last AWG moments.

In the end, the scores were 25-7, 25-15 and 25-17. Jarett Quock was named MVP.

“We still tried in that third set, but we wanted to have fun because we knew it was our last set together,” said Boyd.

Besides the action on the volleyball court, Boyd added that simply seeing more of the North was a memory he’ll carry with him forever.

“I know I live in the North, but I got to see how diverse we really are,” he said. “Some of these (contingents) don’t have the greatest volleyball programs, but to see their enthusiasm was good for us.”

The Yukon team was made up of a mix of AWG rookies and veterans and despite being from rival high schools in Whitehorse, managed to become friends and as well as a cohesive team.

“This was really a special experience because we worked hard to be here and these guys did a lot of work in practice,” said Sandhu. “It’s also really cool to see that a lot of them are going to move on and pursue volleyball.”

The team finished the round robin with a four-wins, one-loss record.

“It’s nice for them to get an ulu out of this and give them some good memories,” he added.

Meanwhile, the female team battled through a five-set match, but lost to the NWT.

The Yukon took the first and third sets but couldn’t hold it together in the fifth and final game.

“We just tried to play our game and stay positive,” said head coach Tara Wardle.

About midway through the fourth game, Team Yukon’s momentum took a turn for the worse and the girls just couldn’t regain their winning mentality.

The female team went into the final game with a 2-2 win-loss record and was defeated in the semifinal by Greenland 3-0, pushing the team into the bronze-ulu game against the NWT.

“We beat the NWT fairly easily before but we just couldn’t seem to keep it together at the end,” said Wardle. The final scores were 25-11, 20-25, 25-21, 21-25 and 7-15.

Wardle noted that the team had an excellent week and though she allowed her crew to grieve for about an hour, after that there was no more looking back.

“Everyone worked hard and we really went for it,” said Wardle.

“We just couldn’t step it up in the important game,” added team captain Kasia Leary. “We lost communication and then the spirits started to drop.

“But on and off the court, we’ve been best friends which is a little rare, especially with a women’s team.”