Grande Prairie, Alberta
Tanner Coyne took one lesson away from his volleyball team’s first loss at the Arctic Winter Games.
“That we can beat them,” said the Yukon middle.
“We went into that game with less confidence than we should have had,” added teammate Robin Smith. “We gave them more credit than they deserve.”
Team Yukon will get a second shot against undefeated Team Alberta North in the junior male volleyball finals at the Games in Grande Prairie, Alberta, on Friday.
In Yukon’s only loss of the tournament, Alberta North won 25-22, 23-25, 15-8 on Wednesday.
“They were expected to come in and blow everyone away and we had a really close match with them,” said Yukon head coach Shaun McLoughlin. “The guys really wanted to beat Alberta.”
In a rematch of the team’s opener at the start of the week, Yukon defeated Nunavut a second time, winning 25-12, 25-16 in Thursday’s semi to get to the final.
“This game stands out because we were the most consistent,” said Smith. “Other games we let teams go on runs for four or five (points), but this game we didn’t let them do that as much. We’d end their runs once it got to two or three.”
Yukon was soundly in control in the first set, but ran into trouble in the second, allowing Nunavut to go up 10-7. However, after tying the game 13-13, Yukon put the screws to Nunavut, starting with Smith making a pair of kills and stoning the opposition with a block to take a three-point lead.
“That’s one thing the guys have done the whole tournament, if they’re down, they can come back,” said McLoughlin. “We’ve been kind of streaky in our games. If they go down four, five points, they can come back and they’ve been doing that all week.
“That one run where Nunavut went up a few points, Robin got a big hit that got us back the ball and we were able to claw our way back into it.”
Although the Nunavut hitters starting finding gaps in the Yukon defence, their temporary lead was more the result of lulls in Yukon’s mental game, said Coyne.
“It wasn’t so much that they were pulling away, just lapses of concentration (on our side),” he said. “We pulled through it, started over after every point that we lost, started over after every set. We just fought for every point.”
Becoming more and more of a cohesive unit all week, Team Yukon is hoping the trend will continue into final.
“All week, from the first match against Nunavut to this match here, every match has gotten better and better and they’ve gelled more as a team,” said McLoughlin. “The way things are going, tomorrow should be our best match. I’m really impressed by the way they’ve come out like that.”
The junior males are not the only volleyball team from the territory to be vying for a medal, the junior female team will be going for bronze in a game against Alberta North on Friday.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org