November 9th saw the initial foray by the girls of 14U Black into the contested territory of the OVA. Newly formed and untested, the team took the floor at the 15U Provincial Cup with confidence tempered by an air of uncertainty. Throughout the day many questions were answered as the girls stunned their admiring fans with the quality of their play and their team cohesion. While denied a medal, the girls maintained their standing, and left Newmarket excited by the promise of what is to come.
The day commenced on the tarmac against the Jets, a 14U team out of the Galaxy club. Despite this representing their initial match together, as well as the first OVA experience for some of our girls, no nerves were evident as they came out flying. Exhibiting dominant serving and controlled passing the Attack made short work of the Galaxy girls in the 25-10 first set. The second set saw our girls quickly recover from some early serve receive mishaps to intimidate their opponent with the aggression of their attack. A final devastating serving run was sufficient to ground the Jets 25-14.
The second match saw our girls in Black meet the first of the day’s many feline opponents in the Thundercats Gold. While all were disappointed to find they were not the beloved cat-like humanoid aliens from 1980s morning television, no one was disappointed in the play of our girls. While the cats displayed decent digging in the first set, probably owing to their experience in the litter box, DA kept their composure, scooping up all that came their way, and serving their way to a 25-14 victory. Defeat turned into a rout for the beleaguered Richmond Hill team in the second set as the Black unleashed their heavy artillery on the poor kitties, scoring sixteen unanswered points and effectively declawing the Thundercats 25-3. This decisive win buoyed the girl’s confidence and secured them a first place ranking as pool play ended.
After a prolonged downtime, during which the team bonded over food and nonsense, the quarter-finals began with a match against the 15U Wildcats. Despite the feral quality their name suggested the Wildcats came out rather tame in the 25-15 first set as they struggled to overcome the continued serving brilliance and solid defense of the Attack. The Cats found new life, however, in the closely contested set that followed. Despite having shut down their hitting game, the Black struggled to put the Markham girls away, allowing them to claw their way back for a 22-25 win, thus forcing a third set. Any fear that this setback would unsettle our girls was abated, however, as they took the court with a focus and ferocity that did not entertain the possibility of defeat. In a display of confidence and skill, the girls put on a clinic to the great dismay of the Wildcats who were left with their tails between their legs in a 15-5 defeat.
The semi-final game found the Attack forced to deal with a Thundercat of a familiar colour. In this battle of the Black our girls took the fight to the larger Richmond Hill team as the first set began. Success with the first pass saw DA take an early four point lead before the Cats thundered back, forcing free balls, and turning the match into a hard scrambled affair that saw the lead knotted at 18 in the latter stages of the set. Character was revealed as our girls slowly imposed their will upon their opponents and finally emerged the 25-20 victor in the rally filled conclusion. With such momentum behind them, our Durham girls surely felt at this moment that the match and a medal was theirs. As they took to the court for the second set, however, there was a sense that something was amiss as a cacophony arose in the gym that assaulted every ear and set the Attack on a disastrous path. What seemed to the uninformed to be merely the impolite banging of an uncouth parent on a gym mat, was in reality a diabolical auditory attack of beats pounded out in hypnotic repetition, intended to confound our serve receive and drain our girls of their vitality. In this dishonest way, the undeserving Thundercats were able to beat our lovely and talented girls by a 7-25 margin. No other explanation is plausible. The third and deciding set was a return to form, of sorts, as it was closely contested, but the girls, suffering the effects of the voodoo drumming, seemed to have left their legs in the first floor gym as they fell 13-15 to the feisty but less talented Thundercats.
The energy that fueled morning victories seemed largely depleted as the Attack tilted for bronze with the well-rested Etobicoke Titans. While still serving well and showing flashes of their earlier brilliance, the girls surrendered a few too many free balls into the hands of the tallest free standing 13 year old in Ontario, and again the better team lost as the Durham Attack Black ended their day in fourth.
After digesting the events of the day, and perhaps a blueberry muffin, disappointment gave way to excitement as the girls realized what they had achieved in the Newmarket gyms. Although their energy failed them as the day wore on, they discovered that what they had created and fostered in the short weeks since they were assembled was something greater than a collection of skilled individuals. They were a team; and a bloody dangerous one at that. Eleven girls, clad in black and united in purpose will return to the practice gyms of Durham having tasted victory and defeat together, aware now of their incredible potential and driven by the desire to achieve it. Although a tired proverb, it still rings true that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It was, however, in time, fairly imposing.
Article written by David Farrell