The girls of 14U Black were back in the medal hunt this weekend; this time in Cobourg facing Championship level competition at the McGregor Cup. Entering the tournament confident, having won gold in their last two outings, the girl unfortunately found themselves living through the volleyball version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. While they played hard for every point, and took sets from talented teams, it just simply was not their day as despite their efforts they failed to meet their team goal.
The day commenced with pool play as the girls faced off against both east and west side Titans. In their match against the highly seeded Etobicoke Titans Atlas the girls fought gamely in the 18-25 first set, but their impressive defence was offset by a penchant for uncharacteristic errors that was to plague them throughout the day. The second set saw a continuation of steady defence that allowed the resilient Black to stem the Atlas attack for a 26-24 win and force a third set, but troubled back row passing defined the first half of this closing tilt. Happily accepting the numerous free balls that came their way, the Titan’s hitting game found its form as they took a seven point lead. While our girls settled down to whittle the deficit to two in the closing moments, it was not enough to prevent the 11-15 loss. The next match challenged the girls to take it to Infinity and beyond as they met the Scarborough Titans. In the first set the girls laboured hard but struggled with the first pass and numerous net fouls as they fell 20-25. The second set brought a little more consistency in passing and finishing as the Black took a more controlled and strategic approach to their attack. Winning 25-16 the girls again went to a third set, and while a little less focused than in the first, they finished strongly 15-9, leaving them second in a very strong pool.
The playoff round began with a match against yet another Etobicoke Titan team in Olympus. While our DA girls have traditionally started slowly in post lunch matches, there seemed to be something more amiss that impacted their timing. Although they fought valiantly from behind they were unable to sustain any momentum as the set ended 21-25. The second set was a noted improvement over the first but the girls still seemed in a match with both their opponent and themselves; and although they found themselves on the verge of victory at 24-22 they could not find a way to close and ultimately fell 25-27. This loss now forced the Black into a situation where they would have to beat the Leaside Lightening to remain at Championship. Showing they were up to the challenge, the girls came out in the first set with spectacular saves and digs to counter the strong attack of Leaside, although finishing remained problematic as they trailed in the early going. With the score at 9-13 it seemed the Black had fallen into the day’s pattern of fighting from behind when inexplicable their true form returned for an eleven point serving run. The girl’s confidence was contagious as the few attacks the Lightning were able to organize as they shanked balls into the walls and rafters were shut down deftly. Winning 25-17 the Black went into the second set under less pressure and seemed well composed as they took a 6-2 lead before the Leaside girls could steady themselves to tie the score at 7. What followed was a closely contested set as the two teams drew even at 11, 14, 16, 18, 19 and 20 before the Lightning took advantage of the opportunities given them to hand the DA a 21-25 loss. In the first half of the deciding third set our girls seemed well on their way to victory, largely due to Leaside serving repeatedly into the net, and boasted an 8-3 lead as the teams changed sides. It was then, unfortunately, that the errors that had troubled the girls throughout the day returned in earnest to deny them their redemption story and leave them on the wrong side of the 14-16 conclusion.
Although the 14U McGregor Cup did not produce the outcome our girls in black had hoped for, or expected, it did serve wonderfully in identifying areas for improvement. Experience, as is oft said, is a cruel teacher as it provides the test before the lessons, but it is the necessary for growth. There are countless examples of success in life following a setback. For example, Bob Dylan, while in high school, came second in a talent show to a tap dancing act. The girls might have suffered a bit of setback this weekend but the experience will turn them into something better than they were before. Give them a few weeks to hone their play for the challenges to come, and then bring on the tap dancers.
Article written by Dave Farrell