The Sub Zero U18 men’s volleyball team was short on players and up against seasoned teams with more tournament experience.
But the Yukon rep team persevered to win seven out of eight matches over the weekend.
The Sub Zero squad won Tier 2 of Division 2 at the Premier Tournament, the third or three in the series, hosted by Alberta Volleyball in Calgary.
“We beat some good teams on the second day and the boys had some real strong performances,” said Sub Zero head coach Russ Tait. “We went down with eight guys and one sprained his ankle the first day, so we didn’t have any subs at all. So they played a lot of volleyball.”
The Yukon team finished first in their pool with four straight wins Saturday. They then lost their first playoff game to the Grand Prairie Wolves, pushing them into Tier 2.
“Had we got by them, I’m pretty confident we would have been top-four,” said Tait.
“Inexperience can cost you a close match like that. I think they did well on the last day was because of the things they learned in the loss to Grande Prairie.
“This was the first tournament for all these boys (this season). The other teams have played several tournaments.”
Sub Zero went on to defeat a team from Northern Alberta Volleyball Club in Edmonton in the tier’s semifinal and beat a club team from the Central Alberta Kings in the final. Yukon won both matches in straight sets.
“I thought it went really well, personally,” said Sub Zero captain Jon Koltun. “We weren’t quite ready for the hits that came at us in our first playoff game, but after that we adjusted good, stepped up our defence a lot, helping us get to where we ended up in the end.”
Even in the loss, Yukon fought until the end. Sub Zero dropped the final set 29-27 after coming back from down 24-17.
“We started to get the hang of it at the end,” said Koltun. “We had a big comeback attempt at the end, but it was not quite enough to win that game.”
Sub Zero also played the Keyano College Huskies from Fort McMurray, Alta., a team that former Sub Zero player Albert Spycher played for last year.
“Their coach was really interested in Jon Koltun,” said Tait. “They were basically offering him a spot, if he’s interested. So that was neat.
“He’s a real versatile athlete; he can play a lot of different positions if needed to,” he added. “He’s definitely a leader on the team.”
Koltun and power Cody Park are the only returning players from last year’s U18 men’s Sub Zero team who won Tier 3 at the Canadian Open Volleyball Championships. The team finished 17th overall out of 64 of the country’s best U18 teams, the highest a Yukon team has ever finished at the nationals in the U18 men’s division.
Six members of last year’s team, including Spycher, went on to play at the post-secondary level in the fall.
This year’s team includes Austin Turner-Davis, Kieran Small, Max Clarke, Stephen Grundmanis and Dawson City’s Alistair Brook.
The team also includes libero Ben Grundmanis and right-side Zachary Giczi, who are both U15 players.
Sub Zero will represent the Yukon at the Canadian Open Volleyball Championships next month in Edmonton.
“Jon had a tremendous tournament for us, as did Cody Park, who got stronger and stronger as the tournament went on,” said Tait. “All the boys were really consistent and played well.”
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