Crusaders comeback for junior boys’ title

Ideally, a volleyball championships should end with a booming kill or an in-your-face block, but that was not the case for the junior boys’ final at the Dawson City Invitational Volleyball Tournament Saturday at Robert Service School.

DAWSON CITY

Ideally, a volleyball championships should end with a booming kill or an in-your-face block, but that was not the case for the junior boys’ final at the Dawson City Invitational Volleyball Tournament Saturday at Robert Service School.

Facing match-point – championship point – at 14-13 in the third set, the FH Collins Warriors were called for a back-row attack violation, stepping over the three-metre line, to give the Vanier Crusaders a 24-26, 25-19, 15-13 win and the junior boys’ title.

“I think the emotions were running high for both teams and some of our players lost track of where they were and what they’re allowed to do and not allowed to do,” said Warriors head coach Peter Grundmanis. “So they did the natural thing, to get the ball over in the heat of the moment. Anticlimactic yes, but it was certainly the right call, and we’ll learn from it in the future.”

“That’s a tough way to end in a really good battle,” said Crusaders head coach Dwayne Stoker.

In sharp contrast from the match’s final point, the Warriors took the first set in exciting fashion, erasing four Crusader set-points starting at 24-20. Beginning with a deep kill from power Marten Sealy, the Warriors took the final points with some potent serving from middle Owen Hedstrom-Langford, who produced a pair of aces along the way.

“We just weren’t playing very well. Mentally, we were losing it,” said Stoker of the opening set. “Some players were on waves; they’d play pretty well for a second and then they’d lapse.

“We lost the first set, but I think we had some good plays towards the end, so we carried it into the second set. We just plugged away one point at a time and then Andrew (Hunter) came up with that big block. It was a turning point.”

“Our passing was really good, we were able to run some good offenses,” said Grundmanis. “In previous games we struggled with our first ball contact, and in that set our passing was right on the money.”

The Crusaders, who finished the round-robin portion of the tournament in first place, toppled the hosting Robert Service School Knights in two sets to gain entry to the finals, with Stoker providing all his players with court time.

“They played really well, and we played well together and even got everybody in,” said Stoker. “They weren’t thinking ahead – they weren’t thinking of the finals – which was good.

“At the Grade 9/10 level, you’re trying to get them understand the flow of the game. At certain points people are understanding positions and they’re starting to gel as a team.”

The Warriors, who finished third in the round-robin behind the Porter Creek Rams – the only other team to take a set off of the Crusaders in Dawson – defeated the Rams for entry to the finals, which was the goal from the start.

“Our goal for the junior team was to get into the final to play that exciting final match, which they had never done anything like that,” said Grundmanis. “So we met our objective and we ended up on the short end of a really exciting match. We look forward to fine-tuning for the Yukon Championships.”

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Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com