“Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.”
While it might seem to some inappropriate to reference Sun Tzu’s The Art of War when discussing a weekend of young girls’ volleyball matches, I believe the words, though over two thousand years old, best describe what was witnessed at the OVA Provincials on the weekend. In a culmination of months of sweat, shared suffering and sisterhood, eleven individuals transmogrified into a twenty-two armed monster with one head and one heart called Chaos. This monster swarmed every inch of the floor, attacked from the air and left a path of destruction in its wake on its way to the gold medal match. When the nets came down on Sunday evening the girls of Durham Attack Black had won hard earned silver and well deserved respect.
The OVAs began routinely enough on Saturday morning with very little foreshadowing of the results to come. The girls’ first match against an undersized North Bay Vision team had them shaking off the cobwebs but winning in convincing fashion 25-9, 25-11. The match that followed against the Georgian Cub’s 12U side was much the same. Exhibiting competent but not dominant play Chaos struggled through moments of miscommunication to beat the diminutive Cubs decisively 25-14, 25-8. Moving on to the third match there was a concern that opening the tournament against less threatening competition might have blunted the edge of the Attack’s sword against greater challengers. Their play against the eighth ranked Oakville Thunder, however, indicated that this wasn’t the case. Although starting characteristically slow, the girls’ feet in time found speed and their passes began to find the setter. With powerful hits and clever touches Chaos silenced the Thunder, capping off the set with a brilliant tip from the setter for a 25-22 win. The second set, like the first, saw initial rough passing give way to outstanding play and a well managed 25-16 victory. It was an impressive accomplishment against a talented team that left Attack in first place in their pool. They left Rim Park knowing there would be no more easy games in this tournament. As they enjoyed their team dinner together that night they were excited, they were hopeful, but few would have guessed what Sunday held in store.
The top sixteen round commenced on Sunday morning with a match against the formidable Aurora Storm team: the Avalanche. Having once lost to this team in tournament play the girls of Chaos were wary as they took to the floor. Aware of the need for a strong start, the Attack came out focused and quick on their feet. Exhibiting excellent back row passing and consistent finishing, the girls made short work of the Avalanche in the 25-11 first set. The second saw a slower start but continued the trend of superior digging and dominant play in a 25-18 victory. It was apparent at the end of the match that something was happening to our Chaos team. They were playing their best volleyball of the season thus far and they were doing it on the day that mattered the most. Now anything seemed possible as they took on the number two ranked team: the MVC out of Hamilton. Whatever MVC might have expected out of Durham Attack Chaos, it is highly unlikely that they expected the juggernaut that ran them over in the 25-19 first set. The outstanding play spilled over into the second set as the girls in black took an 18‑13 lead owing to strong passes and key blocks. A little adversity in the latter half of the set, however, caused a short lapse in focus that bred defensive errors and led to MVC tying the game and eventually going on to win 20-25. The third set, which saw early trouble in passing out of the back row, was a test of skill and nerve. In a rally filled affair, the girls of Chaos tested the heart health of their loyal fans by trading the lead with the Hamilton team throughout the set producing scores of 13-13, 14-14 and 15-15 before finally triumphing 17-15. With the win, the arena exploded knowing that Chaos now had a shot at a medal. But what stood between them and the gold were not one, but two Hurricanes out of Burlington. The first was the Blue, a powerful team fresh off their defeat of Chaos rival STVC Titanium. Still recovering from the tension of the MVC match our girls struggled both on offense and defense in the opening set, losing 17-25. Refusing to lose, however, Chaos recovered their excellent form in the second set fighting gamely through long, exhausting rallies to tough out an exciting 25-22 win forcing another must-win third set. In the fantastic conclusion that featured more incredible rallies the girls of Durham Attack showed the hearts of champions as they hung on for a 15-12 victory. They were guaranteed a medal now; all that remained was to determine the colour. In the championship match against the Hurricanes Black, Chaos fought hard against an excellent team, as well as their own exhaustion. Partisan calls on the line aside, the girls played well but seemed abandoned by good fortune as they unjustly fell in straight sets 18-25 and 17-25. Although tears were shed in defeat they were short lived in consideration of the amazing accomplishment that they had collectively achieved.
As they received their silver medals the girls of Chaos finally relaxed and smiled, enjoying their moment. They had just proven Sun Tzu correct by playing near impenetrable defense and by finding and attacking their opponent’s weaknesses. For six straight matches they had been perfect. What started as the small fluttering of butterfly’s wings in the fall had culminated in a triumphant storm in Waterloo. They had made their coaches and their families incredibly proud. Their taste of silver will only make their hunger for gold stronger as they continue their training and look forward to causing more Chaos in the years to come.
Article written by Dave Farrell