Sub Zero wins gold at Canadian championships

Yukon's Sub Zero 18U men's team arrived back at the Whitehorse airport wearing gold medals to the sound of well-deserved applause on Wednesday.

Yukon’s Sub Zero 18U men’s team arrived back at the Whitehorse airport wearing gold medals to the sound of well-deserved applause on Wednesday.

The team won their tier at the 2012 Canadian Open Volleyball Championships on Tuesday in Toronto. By winning Tier 3, Sub Zero finished 17th overall out of 64 of the country’s best 18U teams.

It is the highest a Yukon team has ever finished at the nationals in the 18U men division.

The gold-medal win has been a long time in the making.

“It was a good way to finish off the season and the last five years that we’ve been playing on this team,” said captain Lowell Tait. “We have lots of experience from the Arctic Winter Games and high school seasons since Grade 8. We’ve had additions and lost some players, but this core group has been together for a while – around five years.

“I’m just happy that we had a good finish to everything.”

“It was really great because we’ve worked so hard – a lot of practice,” said right-side Albert Spycher. “Mike (Hunter) and I have been playing together since Grade 8 and 9. We’ve been practicing a lot and trying out for everything we could, like the Arctic (Winter Games) in 2010, Western Canada Games in 2011, and Arctic (Games) this year.

“All that hard work, good players, helped us through this tournament.”

Sub Zero snatched the gold with a 28-26, 25-18 win over Prince George’s Kodiaks, which defeated Alberta’s No. 3 team to reach the final.

The Yukon boys had their own wins over top Alberta teams.

In the Tier 3 semifinal, Sub Zero beat Edmonton’s Gold Bears, the province’s No. 2 ranked team and the club team for the University of Alberta. After dropping the first set, Sub Zero came back to win 24-26, 25-23, 15-9.

They were giant killers in the quarterfinal as well. In another tough three-setter, Sub Zero downed Cochrane’s Jaguars Black, Alberta’s No. 4 ranked team, 25-22, 22-25, 15-9.

“These guys have been playing together so long, it didn’t matter who we were playing or what the circumstance was, in all of those matches you never hear them get on each other. They just work and have fun and compete,” said Sub Zero head coach Russ Tait. “I had tons of coaches come up and comment on their skill-level. They were impressed to see a group of guys from the Yukon playing at that level.

“More important then winning that gold medal is to compete with the best players in the country.”

Though no one can go to a national championship expecting to win a gold medal, the achievement wasn’t out from nowhere.

Sub Zero’s six starting players all competed on Yukon’s junior male volleyball team at the Arctic Winter Games this past March in Whitehorse. That team won the territory its first gold in volleyball in 26 years.

The six starters were also on board Yukon’s team at the Western Canada Summer Games last August in Kamloops, B.C., taking a couple sets off provincial teams, including the first set off B.C. ever by a Yukon squad at a major competition.

All eight of the Sub Zero players were also on the Vanier Catholic Secondary’s senior boys team this past fall. The Vanier Crusaders team, also coached by Russ, went undefeated at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament, in the regular season, and at the Yukon Volleyball Championships to become the territorial champs.

“We weren’t expecting to win, we just played our best and got the medal,” said Spycher.

“Most of us go to the same school, we all hang out together, we’re really close.”

Their prowess on the court hasn’t gone unnoticed by post-secondary coaches. Four players from the starting line have signed with college and university teams.

Next school year Spycher will be playing for Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alta., Michael Hunter will be playing at Grande Prairie College, and Mason Gray and Lowell are heading to Grant McEwan University in Edmonton.

Even this past weekend at the nationals, Charlie Kedziora was made an offer by NAIT Institute and is considering it.

“My goal, since (they were in) Grade 7, was to have them to have them go play somewhere after they graduate high school,” said Russ.

“Out of my six starters, five of them are going to go play somewhere in college. The one that isn’t, it’s not because he couldn’t, it’s just because he’s in a high academic program. To me that’s a big accomplishment in itself.”

Now that the team’s players are all heading their own ways, finishing this week’s championships carries some mixed emotions.

“It’s a little bitter-sweet, but Michael, Mason (Gray) and I will see each other a lot during next year in our college volleyball season,” said Spycher. “We’ll be playing each other every second weekend or every weekend.”

Sub Zero, which went 6-3 in Toronto, found themselves competing in Tier 3 after taking a pair of losses on the opening day. They lost 29-27, 25-22 to Aurora, Ontario’s Storm Avalanche and then 24-26, 25-20, 15-7 to Calgary’s Canuck Stuff, who went on to win the bronze in Tier 1.

In other words, Sub Zero pushed the team that finished third overall in the country to three sets.

As usual, Spycher was a key part to the team’s offence, leading the team in aces and kills, with 10 and 87 respectively. Hunter, was second in aces with six, and had 32 kills. Gray racked up 42 kills and led the team in blocks with 16.5. Jon Koltun was second on the team in blocks with 10 and also had 21 kills. Justin Dragoman had 24 kills and 7.5 blocks. Lowell, the team’s setter, amassed a total of 211 assists over the nine matches.

The team may be splitting up this coming school season, but they have one more goal in the back of their minds. They plan to reunite next year for the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

“Next summer is the Canada Games and we’re going to have everybody playing somewhere and we’ll be able to come back together for one last tournament,” said Lowell. “So we still have one more in the books … that’s what we’re all looking forward to.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

The now empty lot at 410 Cook Street in Whitehorse on Jan. 19. As developers move forward with plans for a housing development that would feature 16 micro-units, they are asking city council for a zoning change that would reduce the number of required parking spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Developer asks for zoning change

Would reduce the number of required parking spaces

The Liard First Nation is preparing to enter negotiations for self-governance with the territorial and federal governments. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
Liard First Nation preparing to enter self-governance negotiations with Yukon, federal governments

Chief Stephen Charlie seeking an agreement separate from “dead end” UFA

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read