It’s a long drive home from Dawson City, but it probably didn’t seem as long for the Vanier Catholic Secondary School Crusaders.
Although some of the Vanier teams had slow starts to the season, the Crusaders won all four divisions at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament. The tournament happened Thursday through Saturday at Robert Service School in Dawson City. (See Grade 9/10 coverage on page 10.)
Losses in their first two Super Volley appearances this season were but a distant memory at the tourney’s end on Saturday. The Crusaders senior girls team took a little longer than they perhaps could have, but eventually won an elusive match-point for a 25-19, 25-22 win over the Porter Creek Rams in the finals.
Facing a straight-set loss, the tenacious Rams managed to stave off seven Crusader match points before succumbing to the loss.
According to some Crusaders, the key to keeping the Rams from making a comeback was keeping a cool head under pressure.
“We tried to stay calm – that’s the big thing we’ve been working on,” said Crusaders right side hitter Brittni Waddington. “When we’re calm we always pull through and that’s what we learned in Calgary. That’s what was going through my head and I’m sure it was going through the other girls’ heads. I could look at their faces and see that.”
As any coach will say, game experience is key to remaining level-headed in tough situations, and the Crusaders recently gained plenty while playing at the Cougar Classic in Red Deer, Alberta, where they reached the finals.
“We played as a team and these girls are outstanding because there’s not one player who’s our big player, all of them worked together,” said Crusaders head coach Janna Tait. “We’re getting more game experience and the more game experience we get, the better we are at controlling our emotions. And I really think that our ability to stay calm is what kept us in the game.”
The teams split two sets they played against each other in the round-robin section of the tournament, with both sets ending 25-23. However, when points for and against were added up from the entire round-robin before the playoffs, the Rams were at the top and the Crusaders were second.
“In the first set, our serves killed us; we had lots of missed serves,” said Rams left side Emma McDougal of the finals. “In the first set of the gold-medal game, people always get jittery and a little nervous, so we weren’t right there.
“We didn’t have enough defence in the second set and didn’t support our hitters if they make a block. We started coming along, but it was a little bit too late.”
To get to the finals, the Rams defeated the hosting Robert Service School, winning in straight sets 25-19, 25-12. Vanier had a tougher time getting there, coming back from a set down to defeat the FH Collins Warriors 22-25, 25-23, 15-5.
“We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year and I love it because we’re not done yet,” said Tait.
back in boys final
Before the game, which was the last of the tournament, talk of a Crusaders sweep was on many people’s lips.
That was no help, said Crusaders head coach Dwayne Stoker.
“That plays with your head a little bit,” said Stoker. “In the Early Bird (preseason tournament) both FH (Collins) and Porter Creek came out swinging and beat us quite easily.”
In the senior boys’ final, the Vanier Crusaders came out flat and put themselves in a hole, but managed to come back for a 21-25, 25-22, 15-8 win over the Porter Creek Rams.
“We knew what we had to do from the beginning,” said Vanier captain Logan Gray. “Our passing had to be on, and the first set we were kind of shaky and were playing junk ball, but at the end we tightened up our passing and got some good kills.”
Gray was largely responsible for putting away the Rams with a handful of kills, including the game-winner, late in the third set, as the Crusaders won five straight points for the boys’ title.
“My teammates trust me,” said Gray. “I know what needs to be done and together we got it done.”
The Rams took the first set after pulling away from the Crusaders at 19-19, with Zack Moses serving up an ace for set point and Bryden Cook producing the kill after a dig from Robin Smith on set-point.
“I expected us to take the first set because we took both sets from them in the round-robin,” said Rams head coach Sukh Sandhu.
“What changed in the second was that we should have put it away instead of doubting ourselves. Things went on out there that weren’t us.
“I feel for them because they worked hard, but there were a couple instances in the second where they didn’t work smart.”
Like the senior girls team, the Rams arrived in the finals with a win over Robert Service, defeating the host school 25-15, 25-14. The Crusaders downed the FH Collins Warriors in the semis, winning 25-18, 19-25, 15-6.
“I think all the (Vanier teams) went on trips to the Outside, which always helps them get together and teaches them how to win and lose, and things just clicked,” said Stoker. “I don’t know if we’ve ever swept like that. There used to be Grade 8s here at one time at this tournament and I think we almost did then.”
The regular season for high school volleyball ends this week with the Super Volley semifinals taking place Thursday, followed by the finals on Friday.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org