The Yukon men’s volleyball team made Canada Summer Games history on Sunday. On Wednesday, they will try to do it again, against the same team.
Yukon defeated Prince Edward Island 25-19, 25-20, 25-18 on Sunday to become the first team from the territory to defeat a province in volleyball at the Canada Games. Yukon has won matches before at the Canada Games over other territorial teams, but not a provincial one.
Following losses to Newfoundland and New Brunswick on Monday and Tuesday, Yukon is set to play P.E.I. a second time to determine which team takes 10th and which places last on Wednesday.
“That’ll be a tough match because P.E.I. certainly didn’t have their best match the first time we played them,” said Yukon head coach Russ Tait. “So we might see a different game and a different team tomorrow. But we’ll be ready for them.
“For some of the guys it’ll be the last competitive match they ever play, so it’ll be an emotional game for them, any which way. They’ve been playing together since Grade 6, some of them, and tomorrow will be their last competitive volleyball match together.”
The Yukon team was two points away from making it two in a row on Monday. Yukon narrowly lost 26-28, 26-24, 15-25, 25-23, 15-13 to Team Newfoundland and Labrador.
It was another big performance from Yukon’s Albert Spycher. The right-side player led the game in kills with 21 – a tournament high for the team – while middle Mason Gray and right-side Justin Dragoman had 10 apiece. Middle Jon Kolton had nine in the game.
Yukon took the first set on a kill from Spycher and Koltun raised the shields with a big block on set point in the third. Koltun later hit an ace to tie the final set 13-13, but the team dropped the next two points.
“I thought we played extremely well,” said Yukon co-captain and setter Lowell Tait. “There was no one on the team doing anything wrong … At the end of the match a couple points snuck away. No one felt we choked at the end, we felt like we tried our best and in the end it didn’t go our way.
“Our emotional game was awesome as well. Everyone stayed positive.”
Yukon lost 25-21, 25-14, 25-21 to New Brunswick in both teams’ first crossover games between the two pools on Tuesday. Spycher led the team in kills – again – with 11. Lowell and Kyle Wallace each had an ace.
“We were on and off,” said Lowell. “I think we’re starting to get tired. It’s been a long tournament. And they outsize us – we would have had to play our best game to beat these guys … There were definitely a few times where we could have stepped up, but I feel we played well. They’re a strong team and they all play university ball and are a lot taller.”
Yukon lost 25-15, 25-11, 25-11 to Ontario and 25-10, 25-12, 25-12 to B.C. on Saturday. They then lost 25-16, 25-19, 25-14 to Saskatchewan early Sunday afternoon before the historic win.
Not only was Sunday’s win over P.E.I. the first by a Yukon team over a province at the Canada Games – male or female – it was the first in the Western Canada Summer Games as well.
Yukon took early leads in each set against P.E.I. and never trailed during the match. Spycher, who delivered his team match point with a nifty tip, led the squad in kills with 10.
The Yukon men’s team has been a long time in the making. Many on the roster have been playing together since Grades 6 and 7 and up through high school in Whitehorse.
Four players were on Yukon’s first gold winning team in 26 years at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games.
Five played for Team Yukon at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops, a squad that took sets off Saskatchewan and bronze-winning B.C.
There are also four players – Lowell, Grey, Spycher and co-captain Michael Hunter – who played at the post-secondary level last season.
“It’s great to be here, great to be part of the team,” said left-side Wallace. “I’m really thankful that I came from the Yukon.”
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