The Vanier Crusaders excel in Dawson City.
For the second year in a row, Vanier teams won three of four high school divisions at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament, which wrapped up Saturday at Robert Service School. (In 2009 the Crusaders swept the tournament.)
Least surprising was the Crusaders winning the senior boys division with a 25-15, 25-15 win over the Porter Creek Rams in the finals.
So far this season, the Crusaders, which has six former Team Yukon players on the roster, are undefeated in Super Volley and defeated the No. 3 and No. 4 ranked teams in Alberta at a tournament the previous weekend.
“We were definitely firing on all cylinders, so it was fun,” said Crusaders head coach Russ Tait. “They prepared themselves well and played well. Sometimes when the competition is varied, it’s sometimes tough to keep your focus, but they played really well.”
The Crusader definitely kept focus, not dropping a single set throughout the tournament. In fact, during four round-robin matches, the Vanier team missed a total of just two serves.
Power hitter Albert Spycher was again a leader in offensive for the Crusaders with three aces and seven kills in the final. Also racking up kills were Mike Hunter with six and Mason gray with five. Setter, and captain, Lowell Tait produced 24 of his team’s 25 assists in the final.
avoid third set
The senior girls final looked on its way to a decisive third set, so much so Crusaders head coach Kelly Bukowski was already choosing who was going to start it.
“I thought we lost (that set), I started making up my third-set lineup,” said Bukowski. “Next thing I know, we’re up 26-25.”
The Crusaders fought back from 24-21 to take the second set and, in the process, the match and title with a 25-13, 27-25 win over the FH Collins Warriors.
On match-point, the Crusaders received a free-ball from the Warriors, and Crusaders setter/captain Robyn Fortune sent a pass to Kelsey Smeeton who put down a kill for the win.
“(Smeeton) is super steady and she just found the right spot,” said Bukowski.
The Crusaders arrived in the final after another tough battle, defeating the Porter Creek Rams in three sets.
“All three (Whitehorse) teams are really close, so we don’t take any chances,” said Bukowski.
“Sam Henney played a really strong tournament,” he added. “She got moved into the off-side position, which is really good because she has a good set of hands and on a broken play she can set the highball.”
Rams win junior girls title
In the closest final of the tournament, the Porter Creek Rams’ junior girls erased two match-points for the FH Collins Warriors, eventually winning 25-13, 23-25, 16-14.
Down 14-12 in the third set Rams’ Sam Wintemute helped put her team on top from the service line.
“She was having a rough serving game, so she was quite nervous, but she was focused and went up there and had an amazing serve,” said Rams head coach Kasia Leary.
“We would continuously hit, and (the Warriors) were digging really well.”
The Rams cruised into the final with a two-set win over the Robert Service Knights in the semi.
“It was still fairly close,” said Leary. “We have to work on our serving. The girls, mentally, had to dig deep and stay focused in all the games they played this tournament.
“Hanna Milner stepped up and set really well this tournament and her confidence level improved a lot,” she added. “And Teah Dixon was an asset in the middle. And Alex Schultz had a really strong hitting game in the last match.
“This was our first tournament playing together, so it was really interesting to see the girls meld.”
in third set
There were some big momentum changes in the junior boys final.
However, three consecutive blocks from Vanier’s Stephen Wohlfarth gave the momentum back to the Crusaders when they needed it most: in the third set.
“It was a mental game as much as a physical game in that case,” said Crusaders head coach Jeremy Staveley. “They came through in the end, showing some metal toughness.”
The Crusaders took the title with a 25-17, 9-25, 15-5 over the FH Collins Warriors in the finals.
Seeing a few too many mistakes in the second set, Staveley pulled his entire starting line and put in his second string players.
“I put in a whole new six and they were a little less experienced group – so there were some younger guys in that group – and they just worked their butts off,” said Staveley. “The guys who were in the first set had time to think and refocus for next set. It reignited the group. They saw the other guys working hard and they decided to do the same.
“Jonno Runions and Andrew Hunter were key offensive players all weekend.”
The Crusader entered the final after downing Dawson’s Knights in two sets in the semifinal.
“We worked hard and good things kind of happened,” said Staveley. “We capitalized on Dawson’s errors, that was one of the big factors.”
Dawson teams battle in elementary division
For the first time in years, the Dawson invitational had a Grade 7 and 8 division with four co-ed teams from Robert Service School competing.
In the end, the Gold team defeated the White team 25-19, 25-16 for the title, going through the entire tournament without dropping a set.
“We’re just starting to try to bring Grade 7 and 8 teams back into the tournament,” said Gold head coach Christina McIntyre, who is a Grade 10 student at Robert Service.
“The whole team worked together; it was more of a team effort than anyone standing out … Going into the tournament we were kind of the underdogs.”
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