Loaded with Team Yukon players from the Western Canada Summer Games, both the Vanier Crusader senior teams will be ones to watch this Super Volley season.
The two teams opened their season with four-set wins over the Porter Creek Rams on Thursday at Porter Creek Secondary.
Vanier’s boys took their match 25-14, 25-17, 24-26, 25-20 while the Crusader girls, with four Western Games players, captured a 25-18, 19-25, 25-11, 25-23 win over the Rams.
“(Six) of them played with me all summer, went to the Western Canada Summer Games, and they’ve been playing together since they were little,” said Crusader boys head coach Russ Tait, who coached Team Yukon at the Games in Kamloops.
The Crusader boys came out with guns blazing on Thursday, jumping out to a 23-13 lead with eight consecutive points on the serve of Michael Hunter.
The team then took the set on a monster block from Albert Spycher.
Vanier’s starting lineup continued to shine in the second, cruising to a 13-4 lead, eventually taking the set on a back-row-attack violation from the Rams.
Even with Vanier’s second line out in the third set it was close, getting to match-point at 24-23. However, two big spikes off blockers from Ram Josh Kelly gave his team the set.
“It’s good for the other guys who are learning to get their shot in there,” said Tait of his second line. “That third set I threw them in there to give them some game experience. For some of the Grade 11s, it’s their first Super Volley experience, so it’s fun for them.”
The Crusaders reached match point on a first-touch return from Justin Dragoman before a failed spike from the Rams ended the match.
“In the sets we lost I think we were too uptight. We had some nerve problems and need to get a little looser, swing a little harder,” said Rams captain Peter Hansen, who was his team’s Player of the Game. “In the sets we won we were lighthearted and enjoying the game – I think that was a big part of it.”
Mason Gray was named Player of the Game for the Crusaders.
“Mason, over the last two years, has grown a ton – grown a foot, I’d say,” said Tait. “He’s played every position for me … he’s a real versatile player.”
In their season opener the previous night, the Rams came back from a set down to beat the FH Collins Warriors 23-25, 25-13, 25-16, 25-14.
At the Western Canada Summer Games in August, Yukon’s boys team took a set off BC and Saskatchewan, a feat only accomplished once before for the Yukon at a major Games.
Scrambled Rams winless after two
The start of the season is a prudent time for experimentation. That’s what the Rams’ senior girls are doing – mixing up lines, trying out players in different positions.
“I think we’ll solidify a few different positions,” said Rams head coach Jordan Borgford. “I had three setters tonight, two liberos, I had people trying different positions because I wanted them to try different things.
“There were some good rallies on both sides, but sometimes the girls get nervous and free-ball it over. I just want them to swing.”
The Rams suffered their second loss in two games this season on Thursday against the Crusaders after taking a close 25-14, 25-23, 21-25, 15-25, 16-14 loss to the FH Collins Warriors the previous night.
“I think we played a lot better tonight,” said Rams captain Kiana Palamar. “We mixed up our lineup a lot, so that flustered us a little bit. We’ mixed up a lot of positions; I normally set, but I played power this one.”
The Crusaders snatched the opening set on a cross-court kill from Vanier Player of the Game Bailey Kuzma before the Rams tied the match, taking the second set on a bump off the net cord from Porter Creek’s Megan Lanigan.
The Crusaders took back the lead, winning the third set on an ace down the line from Sam Henney. Another ace, this one from Tatum Koser, gave the Crusaders match point in the fourth before a net serve from Ariel House closed the match.
For the Crusaders’ new head coach Kelly Bukowski, who recently moved to Whitehorse from Langley, BC, the play he has seen thus far has been impressive.
“I think it was great,” said Bukowski. “I’m not from the Yukon – I’m from British Columbia – and I’m really impressed with the players up here, the coaching staff, the other teams, and it seems like everyone works hard. But at the same time they’re trying to improve everyone.
“It’s great to be up here.”
Playing in at least three different positions in the game – like so much of her team – Rowan Brown was Player of the Game for the Rams.
“She’s a consistent server, a consistent player, passes up really well and can always hit it,” said Palamar.
“(We need to) iron out the kinks, get our passes a little nicer, get our hits in,” she added. “We really just have to figure out how to work together as a team.
“Watch out because we’re coming back.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org