Crusaders open season with big comeback

The bar for comebacks has already been set pretty high for this season.

The bar for comebacks has already been set pretty high for this season.

Playing the first Super Volley match of the year, the Vanier Crusaders senior boys overcame a two-set deficit to take a 20-25, 16-25, 25-20, 25-15, 15-10 win over the Porter Creek Rams at home Thursday night.

“It has to get to the point where the energy has to come from them and they’re working together as a team,” said Crusaders head coach Russ Tait. “You’re looking at all 11th graders and one 12th, so you know there’s some nerves involved when they’re first coming out.”

Led by captain Henry Kedziora from the service line and helped by Michael Hunter, slapping down kills at the net, the Crusaders opened up midway through the third set, starting out on a nine-point win streak to take a 20-11 lead.

“In the third set they started to play, and when they relaxed – they’ve played a lot of ball together – they started to turn it around,” said Tait.

Although it was a demoralizing loss for the Rams, the team did leave the locker room with a positive message, delivered by head coach Mike Kelly.

“We came out of that game with less to learn and we’ll be better off for it,” said Kelly.

The Rams began the game looking loose, producing a power game at the net the Crusaders could not handle. The second set was even more of a one-way struggle, with Rams captain Robin Smith, who was his team’s Player of the Game, putting his team on an eight-point winning steak with his heavy spin serve, going up 13-5.

“In the first couple sets we were playing like we set out to play,” said Kelly. “We were very aggressive and had good passing, everyone seemed fresh and energized.”

For his offensive game at the net and a good night of service, Hunter was named his team’s Player of the Game.

“It’s black or white with Michael,” said Tait. “It’s either a really good serve or it’s the other team’s point, so he has lots to learn with that still. But he’s Grade 11 and volleyball is his game and he works hard, plays all summer and he has a real passion for it and natural ability.”

Rams open with straight-set win

While each set grew increasingly close, in the end the Rams senior girls were too much for the Crusaders as they took a 25-14, 25-19, 25-23 win to start the Super Volley season.

“The first set was a serving game; there was a lot of passing errors off of serves in the first set – on both sides,” said Rams head coach Jordan Borgford. “We always play a little more aggressive – I just want them to swing all the time, make mistakes over the net instead of below tape.”

With nine Grade 12s and three Grade 11s, roughly the opposite of the Crusaders squad, the Rams’ experience was seen early on, taking a 5-0 lead to start the game, controlling rallies after hard, flat serves from setter Elly Oulton, whose serve later helped the Rams take a 22-17 third-set lead on a five-point run.

However, getting the Player of the Game for the Rams was Erin Borgford for her consistent, aggressive play.

“She had a lot of kills – she was fairly aggressive with the ball,” said Borgford. “She had some good swings at the net and some good backcourt attacks, which we’ve been working on.”

Working with a new “5-1 system,” with five attackers on the court with one setter, and dealing with opening-night nerves, Crusaders head coach Natasha Bilodeau wasn’t surprised with the outcome.

“It’s pretty much what I expected for our first match,” she said. “I think part of it was getting used to the new system and working out jitters because I think the girls were really nervous tonight, to play in front of a crowd.”

Named Player of the Game for the Crusaders was setter Patty Wallingham.

Super Volley action continues tonight with the FH Collins Warriors visiting the Crusaders at home.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com