When the girls of 14U Black played their way into Division One at the 15U Provincials in Waterloo, they knew they would face their toughest competition of the season. In a weekend of exciting volleyball they proved they were equal to the challenge and earned the respect of every team they encountered.
Pool play began on Friday morning with a match against Titan’s Dynasty, and just as in the popular 80’s soap Dynasty, the game turned into a heated scrap radiating with the passion of an Alexis and Krystle catfight over the affections of Blake Carrington. While both teams struggled with passing and serving consistency in the 20-25 first set, the second saw improvement on both sides of the net as D.A. and the Titans traded points, locking the score at 22 and 24 before the Black, showing the greater composure, surged ahead for the 26-24 win forcing the third set. While the third set saw the Titan team struggle with both serving and serve receive, our girls failed to take advantage. Despite miraculous digs in the back court and clawing their way back from a seven to a two point deficit, D.A. were overcome 11-15 by the talented Scarborough team. Although disappointed in defeat, this result against the eventual Tier Two gold medal winner illustrated how far the Black had come from their 12-25, 13-25 loss to Dynasty earlier in the season. The second match of the day saw the girls take on the South County Bandits out of Windsor who were looking to steal a couple of sets off younger competition. While they came out aggressively, pounding balls at the service and attack lines, they quickly realized they had underestimated the girls of Black. Exhibiting superior defence at the net and on the floor, the girls of D.A. shut down the South County team at every turn, proceeding through controlled serving and clever finishing to destroy the Bandits in a 25-10 win. The second set saw a reversal of fortunes as strong efforts failed to culminate in points in a 13-25 loss, but the pendulum swung back to Black in the third set as the girls rode strong serving to a 4-0 lead and never looked back, controlling throughout for a 15-11 conclusion and a 15U Division One victory. The final game against the Niagara Rapids 14U Black, which was predicted to be the easiest match on Friday, proved to be anything but as our D.A. girls struggled with their passing. Although the sets produced some great rallies and memorable moments, the momentum remained with the Rapids throughout leaving the Black awash in the current in the 18-25, 16-25 affair. This loss, though decisive, did not leave spectators with the sense that Niagara was the superior team, but simply the hotter team at the moment. Leaving RIM Park the girls were positive about their first day of play and looked forward to a shower and their team dinner at East Side Mario’s.
Saturday’s play commenced with a match against LVC Intensity, a hard hitting team out of London. Running quick paced attacks with the capability of hitting from and to all parts of the court, Intensity had our girls scrambling in the first set. While the Black exhibited superior defence and forced their opponents to work for each point they were finally overcome in the rally filled set by a score of 17-25. The second set saw shakier defence on both teams, and the quick decline of the LVC attack as their setter struggled causing numerous mishits. Buoyed by their excellent serving, the Black were quick to take advantage and finished strongly 25-19, once again finding themselves in a third set against top competition. Both teams continued to suffer inconsistency in passing and finishing in the closely contested set, but eventually it was Intensity that found their focus first, leading D.A. to another 11-15 defeat. The second game of the day found the girls facing both the oddly named local team, the Scorpion Slammers, and a captious referee. Our girls certainly deserved better than what the 20-25, 13-25 scores indicated as they worked tremendously hard and played incredibly well. Undeterred, the girls rallied themselves for their final match of the day against the Suns out of Orillia. As this town has given us both Gordon Lightfoot and Joel Banbury we assumed they could sing and dance, but could they play volleyball? It turned out they could, and in the first set despite performing insane digs and participating in exhausting rallies, the girls of D.A. seemed robbed of points as they fell 19-25. The second set, however, was a different matter as Suns errors were exploited by a feisty Durham side determined to paint the gym black. Playing a brand of defence that astounded their opponents our girls held a 23-19 lead and seemed on the verge of playing yet another third set, when the Suns regained the consistency they exhibited earlier in the match and came back to win 25-27. While the loss was heartbreaking, the stellar performance of our D.A. girls was such that not a parent or player left the gym disappointed. In the evening, the girls were generously rewarded for their efforts by their kind hearted coaches with a trip to the bowling alley where they proved to be enthusiastic, if not skilled, participants. No one foresees an imminent trip to the Ontario Bowling Provincials.
The final day of the OVAs dawned sunny and clear, but there were Thunder clouds waiting at RIM Park as our girls faced Oakville with elimination on the line. Ranked eleventh in Ontario, the Oakville Thunder cast a large shadow across the net from our girls, but D.A. stood strong and unafraid as the set began, racing out to a 7-0 lead. Employing incredibly clever attacks strategy and dazzling defence the Black ran the score to 22-14 before Oakville began to control their first pass and thundered back to within two points. There was to be no collapse here, however, as D.A. steadied their ship and regained their momentum for a 25-21 win. The second set saw a continuation of good play on D.A.’s part but they seemed just a step slow on hit and tip defence against a motivated Thunder offence. Giving up too many free balls the girls worked hard until the final whistle but fell 12-25. The concluding set saw the girls fighting from behind throughout as they struggled with their focus. Though producing amazing hits and saves, they came too sporadically as the girls fell behind by eight before clawing their way back to a three point deficit. Alas, their resurgence came too late as the Black once again fell in a third set by a score of 11-15. They had proven themselves the equal of a highly ranked 15U volleyball team but that seemed small compensation in the moment as they helped their wounded off the court. No team of their ability is ever content to go home early.
The 15U OVA Provincials proved to be a baptism of fire into post-season play for the girls of 14U Black. Although they left Waterloo without a medal, their achievements were impressive. They had taken sets from some of the best 15U teams in the Province and displayed a quality of play that described a team coming into their own. As they look towards the provincials and national tournaments to come, they do so with the confidence of a team that has been tempered in the heat of hard competition. They will be ready.
Thank you to everyone who made the weekend such a wonderful experience, especially our incredibly dedicated coaching staff and parent representatives. Thank you as well to the club for the wonderful idea of Durham Attack House.
Article written by David Farrell