Vanier’s senior players were not the only Crusaders donning gold at the end of the Yukon Volleyball Championships on Saturday at the Canada Games Centre.
Two of the Catholic school’s 9/10 teams took the junior titles with the Crusaders A Team defeating the Porter Creek Rams 27-25, 25-20 in the girls final, while the Crusader boys defeated the FH Collins Warriors 25-22, 25-23 in the following match.
“I’m very pleased and am happy for them,” said Crusaders girls coach Dwayne Stoker. “In the final they were quite nervous, but so was Porter Creek, so it was anybody’s game.
“But they were a team; there were no internal conflicts, young versus the old, or any of that stuff. And they worked hard all year.”
The Crusader girls took the second set, and the match, thanks to some crafty tips from their front line. Vanier moved out to 23-20 on back-to-back tips from Colleen Prenosio, finding gaps in the Rams’ defence on both. Then, before the Rams missed on a kill attempt at match-point, the Crusaders captain and tournament MVP Chanel Newell tipped a forward pass from the back line for the point.
“In this game she didn’t hit a lot of balls, but she’s learned how to be a leader on the team and people look up to her,” said Stoker of Newell. “She’s a good passer, can block and, of course, she can hit hard and serve hard.
“We were working on the other facets of the game from her. Her being captain, it’s the leadership role. And it showed. She led by calmness and not getting rattled and had a big smile on her face and the rest of them thought, ‘If she’s not rattled, then we’re not rattled.’”
Vanier reached the final with a win over FH Collins Warriors, avenging the loss the Crusaders took in last month’s Dawson City Invitational semifinal, “Which is something they really wanted to do – to show they deserve to be in the final,” said Stoker.
The Rams went on to win the division in Dawson.
Finishing in third in the championships were the FH Collins Warriors, going over Dawson’s Robert Service Knights in two sets.
Vanier boys overcome deficits
Not only did the Crusader boys narrowly beat out the Warriors, both sets contained comebacks for the Vanier team.
The Crusaders, who went undefeated in the championship, overcame four-point deficits in both sets, from down 20-16 in the first set and 18-14 in the second.
“What we worked on all year was keeping the ball in a controlled situation,” said Crusaders head coach Jeremy Staveley. “We’re always working on consistent serving and consistent passing. As long as that stays with us, then we’re always kind of in the game. That was our focus.”
The Crusaders secured the first set on spikes off Warrior blockers, first from Kyle Wallace for set-point and the next from Benjamin Grundmanis for set. Grundmanis followed the feat with consecutive kills to give the Crusaders match-point and then the title – the final kill being a particularly booming spike.
The junior boys final was a rematch of the division final at the Dawson Invitational, which the Crusaders also took, but in three sets.
The often-unsung hero of the Vanier team, setter Louie Kedziora, was named the tournament MVP.
“Setters rarely get credit. They’re touching the ball in almost every play and they’re running around like crazy often, and they don’t get to make hits or blocks all the time,” said Staveley. “So they don’t get a lot of credit, but they are doing the core work.
“Louis, specifically, puts a lot of effort in – never misses a practice and has been there every game.”
The Porter Creek Rams snagged third with a three-set win over the Robert Service Knights.
Contact Tom Patrick at