Before the senior Vanier teams could secure the sweep, the Grade 9/10 teams had their own titles to win.
The Vanier Catholic Secondary School Crusaders captured both junior titles at the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament that wrapped up Saturday at Robert Service School. Like in the senior divisions, both the junior finals were between the Crusaders and the Porter Creek Secondary Rams.
Hot streaks were had by both team in the boys final as the Crusaders dropped the middle set en route to a 25-14, 23-25, 15-5 win.
The Crusaders produced an eight-point run to win the first set, spearheaded by the serves of Charlie Kedziora. The Rams then turned the tables in the second, going on an 11-point run to go up 16-5, with Ryley Andrew serving up three straight aces along the way.
“They just started hitting it more and serving it better, so we weren’t really ready for them and had to change our strategies,” said Crusaders power Michael Hunter. “(In the third set) they started making errors and stopped swinging on it.”
Crusaders then won 11 straight points in the third as the Rams encountered problems returning serve.
“As volleyball tends to be, especially at the junior level when they’re all learning and the consistency comes with experiencing that kind of pressure,” said Vanier coach Russ Tait. “It’s a lot of pressure to put on kids; they’re playing in front of a lot of their peers in a noisy gym.
“Like Thomas Mills crushing that ball to end the match, it takes guts to step up there in that kind of situation.”
The loss of the second marked the only failed set for the Crusaders in the tournament, but they almost took that one too, tying the score 18-18 after winning nine straight points before a service error by Vanier’s Albert Spycher gave the Rams the set.
“Eyes get really big when the score is so lopsided and you forget the little things that got you there,” said Rams coach Mike Kelly. “And before you know it, the score is a lot closer than it used to be and people start getting frustrated.”
The Crusaders arrived in the finals with a lopsided 25-2, 25-9 win over Mayo’s JV Clark School, while the Rams beat the FH Collins Warriors 25-18, 25-15 for their ticket.
Rams drop leads in final
Having beaten the Crusaders in the round-robin section of the tournament, the Porter Creek Rams built leads over their cross-town rivals before. However, dropping those leads was new.
The Crusaders captured the junior girls title in Dawson, winning 25-17, 25-19 in the finals against the Rams, after finding themselves behind, early in both sets.
“Vanier outplayed us, end of story,” said Rams head coach Tara Wardle. “They have some very talented girls on that team and, unfortunately, I think our mental game was not there today.
“You can’t miss 10 serves and win a volleyball game. We have good serves, I think it’s more the mental game. Before the match, we were so worked up and nervous.”
An ace by Ram Megan Lanigan gave her team their largest lead of the match, to go up 9-5 in the first. However, the Crusaders eventually tied the set 11-11 and took it when Crusaders captain Kelsey Sweeton made a tip over the Rams’ blockers and then finished the job with a kill up the middle when Porter Creek managed to get the ball back.
“I’m so excited I don’t know what to say,” said Sweeton, who plays middle. “I think we just wanted it more.”
The Crusaders also came back from 7-4 in the second set, eventually tying the set 10-10, and then pulled away to 15-11 on an ace by Sweeton, prompting a time-out called by the Rams. Sweeton then whipped up an ace for the win in the game’s final point.
“This was an excellent game – the girls played really well,” said Crusaders head coach Amber Ursich. “The girls had a good mind-set when they went in there; they were ready.
“Kelsey (Sweeton) had some really good blocks, but there were a lot of good players on our team today.”
Crusaders gained entry to the finals with a 25-10, 27-25 win over FH Collins, whose Warrior teams made it into the semifinals of every division. The Rams defeated Mayo’s JV Clarke School 25-8, 25-14 in the semis.
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