On March 27, 2015 the boys traveled to Harrisburg Pennsylvania to play in the US 2015 Boys’ Atlantic Northeast Tournament from February 28th to March the 1st. A qualifying tournament for the US nationals. The only Canadian team present provides an amazing opportunity for the boys to play abroad and against US teams! The coaches were hoping for a top 8 placement overall and this would be seen as a great success for the team. This would be no small feat with 23 other teams in the boys division. To achieve this the boys had many new experiences and challenges to face.
Firstly, there was the seven and a half hour drive to Pennsylvania which I am sure was taken in stride by all to arrive at the hotel that would be home for the next couple of days. The 28th of February was pool play day for the 24 teams in the boys division. The venue was the Pennsylvania Farm show complex. A new challenge…..at least 30 courts were set up inside, rows upon rows of games going on, whistles, cheering and volley balls everywhere. I myself found it a little overwhelming when I walk in for the first time. The boys appeared to be excited and not at all phased by the busyness of the venue. The courts themselves were a different surface then the boys were used to and quickly learned that digging for a ball usually meant you didn’t slide on the floor but rather kind of stuck to it. Finally, the balls themselves were smaller and lighter than we use here. The coaches had had the foresight for this and prepped them in practice for a couple weeks before as they used the US standard volleyball.
1st Game was at 8am on the 28th of February an early morning. Though I was unable to attend the first day the other parents were great at feeding me updates and getting me up to speed when I arrived that night. The boys played the Roch Pacebootleggr 2 team from Rochester. Though they were obviously not quite awake yet they played well and pulled off a victory winning 25-16 and 25-14 a great way to start the day! Next game commenced at 10 am and they played MVP 1. Another great game for the boys and they were now awake. Won again 25-17 and 25-19. Now the momentum is going strong and the boys have found their niche but the teams are getting progressively more difficult. 3rd match of the day saw a wait until 2:30 in the afternoon. The boys were up against the BRYC boys national team. The first set did not go our way and the boys faced a loss of 19-25. they dug and fought back hard winning the next set 25-16. forcing a third. It was a tight game but the boys pulled out ahead proving the stronger team with a 16-14 victory! Final game of day 1 all set to go at 4:30 pulling on their endurance and success of the day the boys faced club Lehigh. They lost a little ground in the first set and lost 19-25 perhaps fatigue and the distraction of a long day was starting to set in but they pushed on. Their can do attitude led them to a 25-20 win in the second set forcing a third set. This led to a substantial win of 15-7 for the boys and they finished day 1 strong in the standings.
Day 2, March 1, 2015, last game of pool play was set to go at 9 am. Though it started marginally late the boys were excited and had settled into the atmosphere of the complex. The RVC 1 was a team to take notice of. They were unbeaten the day before with no game going to a third set and we knew it would be a challenging team. RVC definitely had height as an advantage and two very strong hitters. But otherwise fairly matched and not necessarily the better team. Our boys were unable to control the strong hitting from this team and unfortunately faced their first loss of the tournament at 19-25 and 20-25. The ball play between the two teams was amazing. Everyone remarked that it was by far the best match the boys had played all tournament. All agreed: the team, coaches and parents that it would be great to face te RVC team again because of skill level and the belief that we could best this team on our “A” game.
Now the pressure is on. To stay in the tournament at this point the boys must win the next game. It has gone from pool play to instant out. You lose you are done. The boys have secured themselves in the Playoffs Gold grouping. There are 8 teams in the pool. 11:00 am we face the Panther gold team. They are a strong team with excellent ball control and service. Once again the rallies, returns and hitting was exemplary on both sides. The game was longer though only went to 25 points as the rallies were really great. The DA boys lost the first set 19-25. Next set they dug hard and controlled the hitting and made some excellent blocks leading to points and a win 25-20. Third and final set both teams worked very hard but our boys came out the victor with a final score of 15-10. They stay and play some more.
Next game will decide who will play in the gold medal and bronze medal rounds. The DA boys face the Roch Pacebootleggr 1 team. This team is massive in height and strong as well. With strong hitting and excellent ball control they are an amazing team to watch. Unfortunately I think the boys were a little intimidated by the size of this team or perhaps they were getting tired but they were definitely not on their game. Simple skills eluded them but the other team was not without fault. Interestingly their Libero had a hard time handling some of our services and coach capitalized on this fact to get us on the board and help the team momentum. Win or lose the boys had all ready surpassed the TOP 8 goal that had been laid out for them and all were immensely proud. The boys lost both sets to this team 14-25 and 8-25. At his point we know the boys can do no worse than 4th place and move onto the Bronze medal round.
The bronze medal game is set to go at 2 pm. The boys wait anxiously to see who they will be matched against. It is a long wait as the teams they are waiting for are still playing and the matches are very long and close. Finally 3 pm the team emerges. RVC 1. Admittedly I feel my heart sink just a little. The rematch is on as we had hoped for earlier in the day. Would the boys have enough stamina left to play well after such a long tournament and long day? Would they be able to mentally get over the loss they suffered earlier in the morning to this team? As the teams take the courts and walk towards us waving and smiling, I note a distinct difference, the DA boys are alert and excited, team 12 training has definitely paid off. Our opponents are seem to be feeling the drain of the tournament. First set the boys are hitting strong and serving well. The RVC team is struggling to keep up. The boys capitalize on this and win the first set 25-15. Parents are so excited the referee tells us it is too late in the day to have as much energy as we do. Second set and RVC is battling back hard. Third place is on the line and an automatic BID to US nationals, something I don’t think they want to give up lightly. RVC hits hard and uses every ounce of energy they have and the DA boys lose 23-25. Third and final set, everyone is on the edge of their seats, I am sure voices are going hoarse from the cheering on both sides. Amazing sets and rallies. Serve after serve. The DA boys pull ahead and RVC catches up but in the end it is too little too late, the DA boys finish the set with a 15-13 victory, bronze medal and a bid to US nationals. The motto of the boys continues to ring true and on this day they have proven on many levels they “Won’t be beat!”