A long week of school, practice and back-to-back games didn’t prevent the Vanier Crusaders senior boys from ending it on a positive note.
The Crusaders dropped their Super Volley season opener but bounced back the following night to claim their first win.
The Crusaders lost 25-21, 25-11, 24-26, 25-23 to the F.H. Collins Warriors on Thursday before topping the Porter Creek Rams 25-19, 25-17, 20-25, 26-24 on Friday at Vanier Catholic Secondary.
“They’ve had a tough week of volleyball – I’ve really thrown them into it here,” said Crusaders head coach Jeremy Staveley. “It’s been pretty much full-on this week.
“They found a way to win there and they did play well. It’s always tough to play in these back-to-back games, with a week of practice and a week of school. But they pushed through and I thought they did well.”
After cruising through the first two sets, the Crusaders seemed to let off the gas in the third and fourth as the Rams started to show some life.
The Rams jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the third and took the set on a crafty tip from Kyle Lowes, one of just two returning players on this year’s team.
Porter Creek then overcame a 10-3 deficit in the fourth – a large part due to a string of kills from power Tanner Borsa – and came to within two points of forcing a fifth set against the defending Yukon champion Crusaders.
“I’m a little disappointed with how they started, but I like the way that they ended,” said Rams head coach Derick Bilodeau. “It was good to end on a positive note where we were forcing some of the play and actually playing with the other team.”
Tied 23-23 in the fourth, the Crusaders claimed victory on a kill from Stephen Wohlfarth for match point and an unreturned serve from Ethan Robinson for the win.
“Later in the season we’ll probably be a little more consistent, until then there’ll probably be a lot of inconsistent play on our part,” added Bilodeau. “They definitely have the skill to put together some exciting matches in the season.”
The Crusaders, who are playing with just three returning players from last year’s champion team, were held to one set on Thursday against F.H. Collins.
The Warriors must be loquacious on the court to stay on track, said head coach Shaun McLoughlin.
“The biggest thing in the sets we won was communication,” said McLoughlin. “A lot of the guys on the team – not all of them – are laid-back, quiet guys. And we have a lot of Grade 11s on the team who didn’t get as much playing time last year. So I think the biggest transition for this team is stepping out of that quiet, laid-back personality and communicating on the court, talking the whole time, and bringing up that intensity.
“We start getting in trouble when they are quiet and aren’t talking, calling for the ball.”
The F.H. Collins team has a bit more high-level play under their belt this season than their Whitehorse competition.
The Warriors competed at the UBC Senior Boys Volleyball Invitational at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver the weekend before last, prior to the start of the Super Volley season.
The team placed 19th out of 40 teams at the tournament for the same result as last year. They placed third out of five in their pool with teams from the Vancouver area.
“The reason I like taking kids down to that tournament is it gives them more experience against teams that play at a more competitive level,” said McLoughlin. “In the Yukon it’s not as competitive up here. So you’re playing against teams that aren’t as intense and aren’t as polished game-wise. You get lots of practice, but not much game play.
“Down there you play against teams that are used to playing high-pressure matches in tournaments, in league games.”
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