It had been a while since Dawson City volleyball fans got to cheer for a home team in a final at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament.
They had a lot to cheer about on Saturday at the 35th annual event.
Not one, but two Knights teams from Dawson’s Robert Service School made finals. It was the first time a Knights team pulled off the feat since 2006 when the Porter Creek Rams defeated the Knights in the junior girls final.
“That was definitely the story of the tournament – Dawson making two finals,” said F.H. Collins Warriors senior boys coach Shaun McLoughlin. “I was getting ready for a hostile crowd.”
Robert Service Knights reached the junior boys final and the senior boys final where they fell to Whitehorse schools.
The Knights lost 25-19, 22-25, 15-10 to Whitehorse’s Vanier Crusaders in the junior boys final.
“Every tournament we play, we start a little rusty and then we gradually build our confidence and we gradually get a little stronger every game,” said Knights coach Steve Laszlo.
The Knights squeaked into the final with a tough semifinal match against the F.H. Collins Warriors. Dawson dropped the second set 30-28 but took the third 15-13 to reach to the final.
“Zack Bartholomeus, he was the setter for our team, and he really stood out,” said Laszlo. “He was setting all weekend and he made some big blocks at the net – at some key situations.”
The junior Knights are an experienced team. The team – give or take a player – competed at the Canada West Open as Dawson City’s 14 Below in Abbotsford, B.C., this past May. The team took three wins in Tier 3 and reached the semifinal.
Last school season the Knights, then a Grade 8 team, played up in the Grade 9/10 boys division of the Yukon Volleyball Championships, winning silver with just seven players. The team also won the Grade 8 division the previous year while still a Grade 7 team.
The senior boy Knights lost 25-15, 25-15 to the F.H. Collins Warriors in the senior boys final. The Knights did take a set off the Warriors during the round-robin play of the tournament.
“They played really well,” said McLoughlin. “They’ve done a great job with that program up there in the last four, five years since I’ve been going up there.
“They’re getting people involved in volleyball and you’re starting to see the results now.
“Dawson stayed close to us at the beginning of the first set, but once again our outside hitters, Max Clarke and Kyle Wallace, started taking over.”
The Warriors reached the final with straight-set win over the Porter Creek Rams in the semi. The Rams jumped out to an 18-7 lead in the first set before the Warriors found their footing.
“I pulled my setter off – Benjamin Grundmanis – and had a little chat for with him for a couple points and sent him back out there,” said McLoughlin. “He ended up going back to serve and he served, I think, 13 in a row.
“It was a huge turnaround. He did really well serving and at the same time I made sure he was setting every single ball to our big right-side Max Clarke. Max absolutely took over.”
On the girls side of the tournament the Vanier Crusaders defeated the Porter Creek Rams 25-14, 25-14 in the junior girls final.
The Rams evened the score in the senior girls final with the Rams topping the Crusaders 21-25, 25-13, 15-6.
“I think the first set was a little bit of nerves and excitement and everything, so we just had to get that out,” said senior Rams head coach Amy Palamar. “Then we were able to come back and play our game.”
“My entire team came and played excellent this weekend,” she added. “I can’t say one outshined the rest.”
Porter Creek’s senior girls and F.H. Collins’ senior boys are the only two teams currently undefeated in the Whitehorse high school Super Volley league.
Both teams also won the senior divisions at last year’s Dawson invitational.
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