Just three weeks after a momentous comeback against the Porter Creek Rams in the finals of the Dawson City Invitational, the FH Collins senior girls have pulled off another stunning come-from-behind win.
Although they didn’t face numerous match points as they did in Dawson, the FHC Warriors overcame a two-set deficit to defeat the Vanier Crusaders 19-25, 16-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-13, Thursday at FHC High School. The win advances the Warriors to the finals to finals of the Super Volley to face the Rams tonight at FHC. As the top-seeded team after the regular season, the Rams received a bye to the finals.
“Dawson helped a lot because we were in critical positions and that helped us to be mentally prepared,” said Warriors’ Chantai Minet, who was declared player of the game. “It really boosted our confidence.”
Sparked by the serving of Rhiannon Jones and Sara Fabbio-Swizdaryk, the Warriors jumped out to an 11-1 lead early in the third. However, scores mean little for Minet.
“I usually play one set at a time, one point at a time,” said Minet. “I was just worried about winning the next point.”
As the opening sets unfolded in favour of the Crusaders, it was the silence on the Warriors’ court that worried coach Jennifer Norris.
“When they weren’t talking in the first game, I knew I had to fix that, so I gave them a little time,” said Norris.
“I told them: We know what it’s like to be down, let’s work really hard,” said Norris. “They just brought it back — they did great. I’m so proud of them.”
The Warriors’ passing took off in the third set, opening the door for effective play at the net.
“That’s when we play the best: when we can attack from the front row,” said Norris, commenting on the improved passing. “They needed to get those passes up and they did it … but the main thing is they were talking and communicating to each other, which didn’t happen in the first game at all…
“They usually don’t stop talking in practice, so that quiet thing freaks me out.”
In the deciding set the Crusaders managed to tie the score 13-13 after being down 8-2, but were unable to reignite the flames that boosted the Warriors in the opening sets.
“Some things just fell apart for us in the third game,” said Kyla Fraser, coach for the Crusaders. “They did fight hard, but we couldn’t get back, and I think we lost a little momentum going into the fourth.”
Norris admits that tossing opening sets is not her team’s strategy, despite the Warriors’ recent success when put in that position.
It’s the team’s psychological fortitude that will see the Crusaders through tonight’s final, she said.
“They’re the mentally toughest girls I’ve ever coached,” said Norris. “They’re unbelievable.”
Crusaders advance with straight set win
Short hot streaks set the teams apart as the senior boys Crusaders shimmied out a straight set win over the defending champion Rams 25-14, 25-19, 25-13 in the semis of the Super Volley, setting the scene for a Crusaders-Warriors showdown in the finals tonight.
Short scoring sprees parted the way for the Crusaders, in each set taking an early run and adequately maintaining their momentum.
“They stayed focused,” said Crusaders coach Dwayne Stoker. “Porter Creek started coming back with some plays and they didn’t panic … so they were able to hold it off. Yep they played well.”
Peppering the Rams with a mixture of deep and shallow serves, Logan Grey helped take the Crusaders from down 2-6 to up 14-6 in the first set and from down 4-5 to up 10-5 in the third.
“I usually, actually, don’t serve that good,” said Grey. “I like the new balls they had. They’re usually a lot more pumped up.”
The Crusaders also performed some come-from-behind action in the second set, pulling out from 4-6 to 11-4 with the help of some wily serves from Dustin Myatt.
According to Stoker, the key to his team’s success is baby-steps.
“You’ll hear me yell out: game to five or game to 10,” said Stoker. “We set little goals and it makes them focus just a little bit better…
“When they first get on the floor to play, it’s a game to five.”
The Rams were not helped by the fact that they were playing without a couple starting players; setter Riley Smith sprained a finger in practice last week and Derrik Anderson ended his season with an ankle injury last month. The injuries forced coach Sukh Sandhu to call up some less-experienced players to fill the court.
“This is where you learn your lesson,” said Sandhu, as if addressing his younger players. “There’s a big difference between junior to senior … so they learned their lesson tonight.
“Some of them are going to do something about it now, keep on learning those parts of the game — hopefully for next week.”
The game’s MVP was Kai Nielson, one of the Crusaders’ outside hitters.
“He had a couple of smart plays — he also had some silly plays where he was a bit aggressive and wanted to kill it,” said Stoker, grinning. “That’s the unfocused part, but he was able to hold it together and he was consistent through his serving and his blocking.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org