Skill isn’t everything; sometimes the weaker team wins.
Playing in their final match, against Newfoundland at the CARI Complex in Charlottetown on Thursday, the Yukon girls’ volleyball finished the Canada Summer Games with a 25-12, 25-10, 25-10 loss. But had their offence been on, the match could have been theirs, said Yukon coach Natasha Bilodeau.
“It didn’t go as well as we hoped because in terms of skill, player for player, they’re a weaker team than we are,” said Bilodeau. “But our girls came out a little flat today and just couldn’t finish – we had a lot of errors.
“We executed really strong defence, but when it came to finishing and attacking, we were having trouble keeping it in our court.”
The Yukon girls did pick up the first point of the match with a block by power forward Chantelle Rivest, but quickly dug themselves into a hole with the loss of 12 straight points.
“We’ve definitely had better days,” said Yukon middle forward Michelle Bergsma. “I think we went in there expecting to do better than we did; our communication just wasn’t all there and we got a little down on ourselves.”
Yukon’s final game was not without some positive areas, with May Nguyen getting eight digs, while Amy Palamar and captain Kendra Thompson had four.
Thompson also led the team in kills, striking nine in 23 attempts.
“I think we had some really key kills by our captain Kendra Thompson and Amy Palamar made some great digs as well that I think were really important and uplifting for the team,” said Rivest. “Key things like that can really bring you up.”
The loss is the Yukon girls’ fifth straight, making them winless at the Games, but with some tough competition and close contests, the team seems content.
In fact, Bergsma lists the previous night’s one-sided, 25-10, 25-7, 25-10 loss to Quebec as her most enjoyable game.
“We really had fun in our Quebec game,” said Bergsma. “It wasn’t necessarily our best game skill wise, but everyone got to play and we had a really good time and we played well as a team.”
“It’s fun to be the underdog. You’ve got nothing to lose; you can just go out and show them what you’ve got.”
Before losing to New Brunswick 25-12, 25-17, 25-11, the Yukon team had their closest match of the tournament, pushing two sets into extra points in a 25-16, 27-25, 28-26 to PEI on Tuesday.
“I think we played our best in the PEI game and it was a close game, back and forth,” said Rivest. “I think everyone played well in it; we got good hits, we were passing well and everything was tight.
“It was so exciting.”
“We had some great moments (against PEI) – we played better than we have before,” added Bergsma.
The Games were hard going for the Yukon squad from the get-go, facing Alberta on Monday and dropping the match 25-16, 25-10, 25-7. However, the Alberta match allowed the team to loosen up for Manitoba in the afternoon, losing 25-12, 25-10, 25-11.
“The first game was a little iffy, a little scrambly,” said Rivest. “But when things picked up I think we did come together as a team.
“On the court I think we’re still developing as a team, but off the court everyone gets together great and are really close, so I’m really happy with how things played out.”
Although the girls’ team does not have as many young players as Yukon’s boys’ team, with only a couple young enough to compete at the next Summer Games, Bilodeau sees the tournament as another step towards a higher level of volleyball in the Yukon.
“I think developmentally, especially for the younger players, it was a really positive experience,” said Bilodeau. “We’ve seen them play some of the best ball they’ve ever played. And the older players, we’ve seen them play some of their best. If everyone could have played good ball all at once, we could have done really well.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org