Granted it was a game to decide last place, but it would have been a historic one for the Yukon’s national boys volleyball team had a few points gone the other way.
Competing at the National Team Challenge Cup in Gatineau, Quebec, on Saturday, Team Yukon pushed New Brunswick to five sets in the game for ninth place, losing 25-19, 25-23, 23-25, 16-25, 15-8.
Had the Yukon pulled off the win, it would have been the first time a Yukon boys volleyball team defeated a province at the national level.
“It was really excited,” said Yukon head coach Russ Tait. “It’s been a goal to beat a province at a national championship, and that was close.
“We’re always competitive now with the Maritime teams.”
Before the playoff, in the round-robin, Yukon didn’t pick up a set, but not once was held to single digits in any set.
Team Yukon also pushed Ontario’s U-18 team to 23-23 in their match before dropping the set. Ontario went on to take the bronze.
“When we played Ontario, we had a great match,” said Tait. “They are competing with the best. They are not getting blown out by any sense of the imagination.”
Singled out by Tait were Yukon libero Charlie Kedziora and right-side Albert Spycher.
“Charlie played outstanding defence for us,” said Tait. “He passed at a 2.4 average (against Ontario), which, for that calibre of competition, is definitely high level.
“There’s a school in BC that are interested in (Spycher) when he graduates. Those are a couple fellows that are ones to watch in the days ahead.”
The Challenge Cup was Team Yukon’s final stage of preparation for the upcoming Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops, BC, next month.
“It was a good opportunity to play provincial teams that we’re going to see at Westerns Canada Games and give my guys the opportunity to play that level of competition,” said Tait. “My goal was to have them play these high-end teams, so now when they get to the Western Games, they are not going to be intimidated by the competition they see there.”
In addition to tough competition, Team Yukon received three days of training from Canada’s senior national team head coach Glenn Hoag and some players.
“Members of the national team would talk to the kids in a more informal setting about what it means to be a national team player, what it means to play professionally in Europe, and some of the misconceptions about that,” said Tait. “Another session was about injury prevention and the national team’s physiotherapist talked to them.
“And the national team coach ran them through some practices, so they got to rub shoulders in the land of giants, as we call it.”
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