The FH Collins Warriors senior boys team returned to Whitehorse Sunday evening with a win and, perhaps more importantly, abundant match experience.
After being pushed into the E Flight of the UBC Senior Boys Volleyball Invitational at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver over the weekend, the Warriors tied for third in their flight with a quarterfinal win, one of six matches the team played at the tournament.
“We were probably one of the youngest teams there and probably the least experienced,” said head coach Shaun McLoughlin. “It was all teams from BC and Alberta and most of those teams would play more in a season than our guys play in their lives.
“We kept getting better and better, but we were fifth in our pool.”
The Warriors’ victory was a 25-15, 25-21 win against Carver Christian High School Phoenixes from Burnaby, BC, in their first playoff match of the E Flight.
“The biggest thing we can take away from this tournament is that every single match we improved,” said McLoughlin. “That’s the whole reason why I took them down to this tournament, so we can get experience, play that many good teams in that short of a timespan. Things we are trying to work on in practice are hard to replicate until we are actually facing teams where they have to do it – playing against a 6’7” middle.
“Once they get to practise time and time again, it really showed a big improvement in their game.”
The Warriors lost their semifinal match 25-23, 25-15 to the Strikers from Hugh McRoberts Secondary in Richmond, BC, which went on to win the flight.
At the end of the narrow first set the Warriors lost their most experienced player, power hitter Kieran Small, to an ankle injury. Small is the only player of the Warrior boys to have played from Team Yukon at the Western Canada Summer Games in August.
“He’s one of top passers and top hitters,” said McLoughlin. “He’s definitely the player on our team with the most experience and one of the leaders of the team. So losing him definitely hurt.”
Though the Warriors were winless in their four-game round-robin, the team had its moments. Saturday morning the Warriors came within points of taking a set of a top-10 team in BC AAA, eventually losing 26-24, 25-16 to Yale from Abbotsford, BC.
However, there was a greater divide in a couple of earlier matches, for example, facing BC’s No. 2 ranked team to open the tournament.
“We got a pretty good wake-up call,” said McLoughlin. “The guys got their first taste of the game being played at a faster pace and much better competition.
“The more experience we can get them the better.”
In their first official match of the season, at Whitehorse high schools’ Super Volley league, the Warriors lost 23-25, 25-13, 25-16, 25-14 to the Porter Creek Rams last Wednesday. But with more matches now under their belt than the Rams or the Vanier Crusaders, the Warriors may look like a different crew when they host Super Volley next week.
“All the players had a great weekend,” said McLoughlin. “Kieran Small had a great weekend, passing and offensively. Stephen Grundmanis, with his passing and defence, had a great weekend.
“Logan Godin was blocking with a big improvement. He was one of our middle blockers, along with Kyle Wallace, a Grade 10 that we brought up. They both had some great moments blocking – blocking six-foot, five-inch, six-foot six-inch, six-foot, seven-inch middle blockers, which is a huge development.
“We had two setters down there and they alternated matches – that’s Austin Turner-Davis and Graham Mainer-Pearson. They both played a really solid tournament.
“Mike Amirault, he played right-side the whole weekend and was kind of like the spark plug for the whole team. He brought a lot of energy out there.”
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