Not since 2008 has a Warriors team from F.H. Collins Secondary taken a title at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament. That drought ended on Saturday at Robert Service School in Dawson City.
The Warriors won the junior and senior boys divisions at the tournament while the Porter Creek Rams captured both girls titles.
It was close but no cigar for the remaining Whitehorse high school, the Vanier Crusaders. The Crusaders reached all four finals in the high school divisions, but lost each in straight sets.
The Warriors took the senior boys final in a 25-20, 25-18 win over the Crusaders.
“It was close, but it always felt really comfortable,” said Warriors head coach Shaun McLoughlin.
The Warriors went into the final as the third seed, having lost to the Rams in the round-robin portion of the tournament. But the Warriors bounced back to defeat the Rams in two sets in the semifinal to meet the Crusaders.
“That match we lost in the round-robin was at the end of a long day and we weren’t nearly as focused as we should have been,” said McLoughlin. “They surprised us and we couldn’t recover.
“The next day in the semi we were focused, we wanted to win and we played a really strong match.”
The Warriors led the entire final, thanks to a strong offensive effort, said McLoughlin.
“Austin Turner-Davis, our setter, had a strong tournament, and that gives us so many options with our attack,” said McLoughlin. “I also thought, in the final, (power) Stephen Grundmanis had a strong match, and so did (middle blocker) Owen Hedstrom-Langford.
“Martin Sealy, our other power hitter, also had his strongest match in the final.”
The Vanier Crusaders went into the senior girls final as the top seed, but fell 25-20, 25-19 to the Porter Creek Rams.
“They did really well,” said Rams head coach Kendra Thomson. “They played awesome. It was really good teamwork on the court and I was very happy to be coaching.
“My whole team did wicked. I’m so happy with them,” she added. “There’s always things to work on, and you’re constantly growing, but I would say everybody had a really good tournament. They all worked together and I don’t really think there was a stand-out (player).”
Vanier entered the playoffs with the top seed after defeating the Rams in the round-robin.
“The nerves come up and there’s the school rivalry and I think girls get nervous in the first game and it takes them a while to warm up,” said Thomson. “Their heads were in the game for our final.”
The Warriors lived up to their top-seed in the junior boys final, downing the Crusaders 25-23, 25-19.
“We seemed to be a little sharper, our passing was a little better and our kids played with more determination,” said Warriors head coach Peter Grundmanis. “Most of our kids had lost the same final last year. So they were out to redeem themselves. It was a lot of the same kids.”
“(Middle) Max Clarke began to be a dominate player at the net; his blocking and attacking skills are really sharpening up.”
The Warriors advanced to the final with a straight-set win over the Rams, but it did not come easy. The Warriors had to fight back from down 22-16 to take the first set.
“There’s one player in particular that kind of saved us in the first set: that’s Marcus Deuling,” said Peter. “He just came up with a number of timely big hits. He could have gone conservative and tipped it over when it was close, but he hit some good balls and put us over the top.”
Porter Creek’s junior girls took the 9/10 girls final with a 25-4, 25-17 win over Vanier. The Rams’ coach could not be reached for comment.
This year’s Dawson tournament featured 64 matches, between 24 teams, made up of 200 players. In addition to the three Whitehorse schools, teams from Tantalus School in Carmacks, St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction, and the hosting Robert Service School competed.
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