Underdog Crusaders win gold in barnburner

The Vanier Crusaders senior boys had a rough regular season. They didn't win a single match during the Super Volley season in Whitehorse and they lost in the final at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament.

The Vanier Crusaders senior boys had a rough regular season. They didn’t win a single match during the Super Volley season in Whitehorse and they lost in the final at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament.

But when the team needed – and wanted – wins the most, they got them.

The Crusaders won the senior boys division of the Pepsi Yukon Volleyball Championships in a grueling marathon final against the F.H. Collins Warriors at Porter Creek Secondary School on Saturday.

Vanier upset the tournament favourites by a score of 26-24, 26-24, 20-25, 21-25, 16-14.

“I feel like we’ve always been close in the games but we’ve haven’t had that final push to win the games,” said Crusaders captain and tournament All-Star Jon Koltun. “I think our coaches helped us to develop that final push and the desire to win the games.”

Koltun and power Cody Park were key ingredients in the Crusaders’ success.

RELATED:See slideshow of the tournament.

Vanier took the first set with back-to-back kills from Park and the second set on back-to-back kills from Koltun. In the fifth set Park had two more kills to get match-point before teammate Ethan Robinson made his third block of the match for the win.

Koltun finished the match with 20 kills, five digs and two blocks.

Park, who was named Tournament MVP, had 18 kills, eight digs and two blocks.

“I thought it was great. I was pretty happy,” said Park. “Near the end of the tournament we began getting pretty pumped for the games and we started playing a lot better.

“I think I could have done better. I was pretty sore the whole time. I have a lot of injuries. My left ankle is sprained and both my knees are pretty messed up from training. And I jammed my finger again.”

The Warriors were the team to beat at the championship, having won the Dawson tournament at the end of October and having gone undefeated during the Whitehorse high school Super Volley season.

“That was a tough one,” said Warriors head coach Shaun McLoughlin. “We were the favourite coming in … But that was the Vanier team, right from the beginning of the year, I was waiting to show up.

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“I’ve coached Cody and Jon and I know what talent they have, and I was waiting for them to have that breakout match. It finally came in the finals. It was very well timed for them.

“I don’t think of us having lost this match. Vanier stepped up and won it.”

The Crusaders basically started winning at the last possible moment. Only the top four of the five teams in the senior boys division advanced into the playoffs and Vanier only won one of their four matches to squeak into the semifinal as the No. 4 seed.

They then beat the Porter Creek Rams after facing three match-points in the third set. Down 14-11, the Crusaders won five straight points to win and reach the final. Park secured the win with two kills to finish off the Rams.

“We’re a young team. There are four Grade 11s and only two guys who had been to the Yukon championship at the senior level before,” said Crusaders head coach Dustin Shewfelt. “I had a talk with Cody and Jon – the two guys from last year’s team – and I basically put it on their shoulders that they’re the leaders of the team.

“I told them, how they play is how the team is going to do.”

Leading the charge for the Warriors in the final was Marten Sealy with 15 kills, two digs and a block. Warriors All-Star Stephen Grundmanis had 11 kills, four digs and two aces and fellow All-Star Kieran Small had seven kills, seven digs and two blocks.

“Kieran and Stephen, those two are rock solid,” said McLoughlin. “We can always rely on them and they made a difference.

“In the third set, towards the end, I put Dominic Korn in and that made a big difference. That was a turning point for us to win those two sets. He provided a bigger block to shut down Cody (Park).”

The Porter Creek Rams captured the bronze with a win over Dawson’s Robert Service School Knights.

All-Star team

Riley Andrews (Rams)

Jon Koltun (Crusaders)

Kieran Small (Warriors)

Alastair Findlay-Brook (Knights)

Stephen Grundmanis (Warriors)

Cody Park (Crusaders)

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com