Grande Prairie, Alberta
Considering Yukon’s junior male volleyball team did not miss a single serve during their 25-12, 25-16 win over Team Nunavut in the semis, it was noticeable early in the finals that they weren’t looking as sharp.
“I think there were a few nerves the guys had,” said Yukon head coach Shaun McLoughlin. “It especially made a difference in our serving.
“I think not looking as sharp is having to do with playing against a much better opponent than in the semifinal.”
In the final, Yukon’s junior males lost 25-21, 25-22 to Team Alberta North, taking silver at the Arctic Winter Games in Grande Prairie, Alberta, on Friday.
While all teams are susceptible to nerves in big games, McLoughlin suspects the experienced Alberta team was more resilient to the pressure.
“That part of it was the nerves of playing in a big game,” said McLoughlin. “In Whitehorse, we don’t get as much experience playing in championship games against high calibre opponents.
“Most of the guys off that Alberta team were AAAA provincial champions this year. So they’ve had big games like that.”
Team Yukon may have been nervous for the final, but they were not passive in their playing. At the end of the first set, in particular, Yukon decided almost every point, either getting the kill for a point or missing the kill to give Alberta a point. For example, Yukon’s Derrik Anderson kept his team in the first set with consecutive kills in the final points, but eventually put a third spike long to give Alberta the set.
“We were definitely aggressive,” said McLoughlin. “We couldn’t just be passive against those guys or we’d get eaten up. We couldn’t give them free balls or a light hit because they’ll come back at you with a big hit.
“Overall these guys played an amazing tournament,” he added. “They have definitely earned a lot of respect from other coaches, other provinces and territories, and other teams. So it’s definitely been a great experience for them and for myself.”
Yukon’s junior female team ended the Games with a bronze medal, beating Nunavut 25-11, 25-9. The female squad ended up playing for bronze losing 25-12, 25-9 to Team Alaska, who took gold, in the semifinal.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org