In post-game interviews, neither the Vanier Crusaders head coach nor captain had much to say about their team’s performance. Instead, their comments centred on the Crusaders’ on-court focus.
“I think we wanted it – I know I wanted it,” said captain Heather Clarke. “We were so pumped up to play and it was so much fun. We played so well together and they were tight games so it was fun.”
“I think the strength of this team is their enthusiasm and their love of being out there together,” said coach Terry Park. “There were some key moments during the games that really motivated the girls to finish it off.”
The Crusaders put their tough mental game and hard hits to good use over the weekend, defeating the Porter Creek Rams 25-20, 25-21 for the junior girls’ title at the Dawson City Invitational Volleyball Tournament, which wrapped up Saturday at Robert Service School.
“The girls came prepared to play. They brought their game today and they’re a strong team, there’s no question about it,” said Park. “They really stepped up, played at another level today and I’m extremely proud of all of them.”
The Crusaders took control early on. Tied 4-4 in the opening set, Crusader Tatum Koser gave her team their first lead of the game with a kill and Clarke served up a pair of aces on a six-point run to go up 10-4.
Later at match point in the second, Koser hit back-to-back spikes from deep in the court, finding the Rams’ baseline with the second for the championship.
“Maggie Frison’s spike there, Chanel (Newell’s) spike and Tatum (Koser’s) spike – a back-row hit!” said Park. “Just being able to take that chance, to go beyond, was really outstanding.
“And Heather (Clarke) is our rock, we have nothing but great stuff to say about her because she keeps us settled out there.”
The Rams jumped to a 4-0 lead on the serve of Chrissy Anderson to start the second, and mostly maintained a multiple-point lead until Crusader Newell put an ace down the line to tie the game 14-14.
“That was our goal in the set, to win five-point increments – first to five,” said Rams head coach Matt Taylor. “Up to 15 we were winning it and then we slowed down a bit.
“I thought we did well. We have a lot of people who haven’t played much volleyball and they were bit nervous,” he added. “You could see they were intimidated by the big hits and they let it get to them.
“But we’re a team that’s really good at coming back. In the first set we don’t really play the way we normally do. If it was a best-of-five (match), maybe we could have been able to turn it around.”
The Crusaders, who were seeded third after the round-robin section of the tournament, defeated the second seeded FH Collins Warriors in straight sets to reach the final.
“We were pounding the ball pretty well,” said Park. “This team has strong servers. There were a few flaws during that game, but they served hard and they hit hard and they’re outstanding athletes.”
The Rams, who were the top-seeded team going into the playoffs, beat-out the Haines Junction’s St. Elias Eagles in two sets for a trip to the finals.
“I was really impressed with (middle) Lynsey Keaton,” said Taylor. “She dug balls for us, was passing perfectly fine. And throughout the season I’ve been toying with our lines – no one had a set position – I was really happy with pretty much the whole team, to come out and play in positions they’re not used to.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com