[PLEASE INSERT PHOTO HERE] Yes I will as soon asI can…
On January 31, 2015 the girls of 14U Black donned the red and black girded with kinesiology tape and self-belief to face 15U competition at the McGregor Cup in Stouffville. Guided by scribbled goals and driven by the lure of pizza, the Black again dug for gold and a chance to move up to the Championship level. Throughout a day of hard panning that at times saw as much gravel as ore, the girls found ways to shake off their competitors until they hit pay dirt. As the net came down on the McGregor Cup, the girls had turned Stouffville into their personal Klondike, once more striking gold and moving up to the Championship level, this time at 15U.
Pool play began against talented clubmates in 14U Voltage and as has become the norm in early morning matches the sleepy girls of Black registered a relatively low energy output against their dynamic opponents. The current of the match seemed more alternating than direct as our girls struggled with consistency and the impressive defence of the D.A. team, trading the lead in both sets before grounding themselves to win 25-17, 25-17. Voltage hadn’t shocked our girls, as they were already aware of their ability, but the closely contended match served to jolt our girls into consciousness for the day to come.
Now those who studied English in school might recall reading Dante’s Inferno. Those alive in the 1970s might remember watching The Towering Inferno or doing the California Bus Stop Hustle to Disco Inferno. Our girls next took to the floor against the 15U Stingers Inferno with the same intention as funk sensation The Trammps: to Burn That Mother Down. Thus with tremendously devilish serving, towering blocks and chart topping hits the Black easily doused the Inferno without so much as getting singed in the 25-7, 25-13 sets.
Pool play ended in yet another meeting with the 15U Panthers. This team of feline predators had proven to have some teeth and claws in the past, and certainly weren’t looking to have their bellies rubbed on this day. Although victory was never in doubt this game saw a return to the occasional bouts of inconsistency seen in earlier play. While there were exceptional moments and generally steady defence, the girls struggled to finish in their usual authoritative fashion in the 25-18, 25-21 sets. The match did, however, produce one light‑hearted event when our talented outside hitter extended her unwillingness to allow any ball to hit the floor to a full interception. So with matters well in hand, the Black entered the playoff rounds first in their pool and hungry for lunch and gold.
The quarter-finals saw a return match from the 14U Challenge Cup as the girls once again faced the Durham Attack Illusion. Having sat for a prolonged period prior to the meeting, Illusion seemed uncharacteristically off balance in the first set and struggled to make their first pass, leading to a dominant 25-9 win for the Black. The second set was a bit of a rough trod for both sides marked by several unforced errors, but still saw our girls hold onto a strong lead throughout for a 25-17 conclusion. This victory pushed the Attack into the semi-finals and straight into the path of a familiar nemesis in the Thundercats.
Much as in the Challenge Cup, this semi-final match was to prove to be a greater obstacle to gold than the gold medal match itself. The Thundercats (still 14 year old girls for Richmond Hill and not beloved cat like humanoid aliens), being the only team at the tournament to hold a victory over our girls, created an air of intimidation that seemed to affect the Black in the initial set. Despite demonstrating superior skill and strategy, especially seen in their effective use of tipping, the D.A. girls seemed again unable to maintain consistency in their play. While coming back to tie the set at 15 and 21, any rally seemed short lived as the girls eventually fell 22-25. The second set told a different story, however, as the girls of Attack slowly embraced the realization that they were the superior team. While errors were still made, they were fewer and did not serve to stall the girl’s momentum as they dispatched their larger opponents 25-15 forcing a third set. This deciding set proved to be a nail biter with a score at one point knotted at 8. As before there were missteps and even one basket from three-point land, but in the end talent and team cohesion made the difference as the girls triumphed 15-11, thus cutting another notch in their belt in their campaign to correct past wrongs. Their efforts also put them into a position to win gold in consecutive tournaments. They had beaten the Cats, but could they beat the Thunder.
The Thunder, out of Peterborough, were a spectacle unto themselves at the McGregor Cup; first for their imposing height and secondly for revealing that humans under the age of 65 live in Peterborough. As they took to the court with fully four of them falling within the shadow of the Thunder’s middle blocker, one might have assumed that our girls would have in their mind already forfeited the gold to their altitudinous opponents; but then they wouldn’t have known our girls. Throughout the first set the Black gave no quarter as they served with consistency and hit from all areas of the court, to overcome both the Thunder and myopic officiating to pull off a dramatic 25-23 win. The second set saw the Peterborough girls shrink in stature both literally and figuratively as they struggled to shut down the Black’s dominant serving and uncontainable attack. Quite appropriately, in the end it was a much practiced and thunderous line shot that quelled the Thunder, bringing the match to an end in a quite decisive 25-10 conclusion, and D.A. was golden again.
As at the last tournament, the final match was followed by the removal of shoes and the sharing of small successes amidst the larger victory. They had now won gold at both 14U and 15U but it was gold bought and paid for in the gyms of David Bouchard and St. Bernadette. While this labour had led them to great success and allowed them at least for the moment to rise above the storm, they must now breathe the rarefied air of Championship Level where new challenges await. While there will be fewer easy victories in the days to come, there is comfort in the knowledge that they will face what awaits them together. For the moment, however, they were content to celebrate their incredible achievement at the McGregor Cup and thanks to the generosity of the Timbol family that celebration rolled on from Stouffville to Markham to stuff itself with pizza and wings.
Article written by David Farrell