The Dawson City Knights surprised some people over the weekend, themselves included.
The 14U girls volleyball team exceeded their own expectations with a silver medal at the 2014 14U Canadian West Open in Abbotsford, B.C.
“We didn’t expect to do so well,” said Knights head coach Charlie Taylor.
“I set the tone right at the beginning: we’re here to see how we do, we’re rookies at this, this is my first time at the tournament, we didn’t really know what we were stepping into. Work hard, try to earn it every game, that’s what I was trying to teach them, and they seemed to buy in.”
“I feel really good because I think a lot of people weren’t expecting us to do that good,” said Knights setter Lulu Bartholomeus. “Our coach expected us to get top-20, but we ended up getting top four in our division.”
The Knights won silver in Tier 2 of Division 3 at the westerns.
Following the round robin the Knights topped the Alberni Airborne from Port Alberni, B.C., 25-16, 25-15 in the quarterfinal.
They then came back from down a set to beat the Kodiak Red of Prince George 21-25, 25-18, 16-14 in the semifinal.
Consistency from the service line was a big part of the team’s success, said Taylor.
“After the first six games they had 35 missed serves and 305 in serves,” he said. “They put the ball in play, which helped us battle for points and that’s how we kept ourselves close in these games ... It was amazing to see everything come together in the end.”
The Knights took silver with a 25-16, 26-24 loss to Vancouver’s Apex Titans in the Division 3-Tier 2 final.
Not only was it the Knights’ only straight-set loss of the championship, they had defeated the Apex Titans in three sets during the round robin.
Six of the Knights’ nine matches went to three set in the best-of-three-set format. The Knights went 3-3 in the round robin with a loss to the Alberni Airborne who they would later defeat in the quarterfinal.
“It was a team effort, they were all there supporting each other on every play - good plays, bad plays,” said Taylor. “Emma Davis was our captain, Lulu and Lauren (Jinkins) were our only two setters, but we were playing a 6-2 (offence), so they were always on the court. Those three were pretty much the heart and soul of the team.
“Probably one of the biggest surprises was Joy Morin. I didn’t even know she was 12 years old until the tournament ... She really stepped up her game and helped the team too.”
“Erin Pasloski was an assistant coach and she helped out a lot,” he added.
Though a knight is the mascot for the Robert Service School in Dawson, the team is unassociated with the school. They just borrowed the jerseys.
Dawson’s U14 boys team will be in Regina, Sask., this weekend for the 15U Canadian West Open.
Both teams spent months fundraising for the trips with everything from shoveling driveways to babysitting to bake sales.
The teams raised a total of about $25,000, with about $8,000 coming from donations, and are expecting another $8,000 from grants.
“We train very hard,” said Taylor. “We started at the end of January and I think we did about 35 practices. And we had some practice games here and there. We held some Super Volley tournaments in town.”
While the Knights were posting wins in Abbotsford, Yukon’s Sub Zero 17 Below boys club team was having a rough go of it at the Canadian Open in Edmonton, Alta.
Sub Zero went winless in seven matches at the national championship.
“We had a pretty rough tournament,” said Sub Zero coach Peter Grundmanis. “We were in pretty tough competition, got experience and exposure, but didn’t win any matches.”
The Knights’ silver isn’t the first piece of hardware brought home from Abbotsford this season.
Yukon’s Sub Zero Blizzards U14 boys team won bronze in Division 2 at the B.C. Provincial Volleyball Championships two weeks ago.
They captured the bronze in a 16-25, 25-11, 15-12 win over Abbotsford’s OVC Lions.
“These boys just gelled really well together,” said Blizzards coach Darryl Peters. “It’s actually the first time I’ve gone down to any of these tournaments and the other teams were worried about us. They were talking about the Yukon team, and that’s nice to see.”
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