I don’t know how many times I said “Ohhhhh!!!!” to one awesome play or “Nice!!!” to another this weekend but why wouldn’t I have? Wasn’t that tournament oh … so … nice? But let’s start at the beginning, which was somewhat painful.
15U Ignite had the great privilege of being selected to host our second 15U tournament of the season in the palatial accommodation that is Clarington Central. The 15U Ignite families arrived early to set up for the day’s feats of athletic prowess. This went smoothly with tables already arranged in the cafeteria, front and central, the pre-fab cantina and raffle station organized by the Lords, and parents and players working together to pull out and assemble the hardware that makes up the physical trappings of the sport of volleyball.
Smoothly, that is, until we went to put the frosting on the cake only to discover that the antennae were nowhere to be found. Dave headed out to Maxwell Heights to borrow the missing accoutrements when, well on his way there, he received a text. And Dave know when that hotline bling, it can only mean one thing. Something else had gone horribly wrong. We had found the antennae but the flip boards were in maximum security lockdown, behind the chain link fence of the sports equipment cage. To make a long story short, Dave solved that problem and the tournament began.
Pool play started for Ignite against the Thundercats 14U team who came into this 15U tournament seeded last. The first set finished significantly in our favour promising a quick finish to the first match. But it seems like the Thundercats don’t like to keep their promises as they fought back, and fought back hard, edging us out to force the third set. But they returned to the court with considerably less gusto allowing Ignite to chalk up their first win of the day.
Ignite was back on the court after a quick refuelling to face the Thundercats’ sister team in our age group. The lead traded back and forth in the first set until midway through when Ignite established a comfortable margin and held on for a 25 – 21 victory. The tide seemed to turn in the second set, however, when the Thundercats built up an eight point lead right out of the gate. This proved to be fleeting, though, when they gave up the serve and Charlotte delivered 12 straight right back at them to turn around our team’s flagging fortunes. The Thundercats closed the lead to one point but could not get back on top, ultimately giving up the set which also finished 25 – 21.
Ignite had taken first place in their pool and retired to the cafeteria for a well-deserved lunch, a dance party (I’m told they’re all *great* dancers), a human pyramid – a.k.a. a jumble of bodies on the floor – and some dramatically posed photos for Amy’s school project. “O.K.!”
The first match of playoffs pitched Ignite against Reach Prime who has proven to be a formidable opponent in the past. But not so much so on this occasion as the match went by in a flash going through our roster just once in the first game.
Next up was STVC Infinity who offered some close competition during the semi-final match in which Mary Jo was *not* thrown out of the gym. Points were traded back and forth until late in the first set when Ignite drove a wedge in to create a six point lead only to see it evaporate to one point before an eleventh hour rally secured the win. The second set was almost a mirror of the first, though this time around Infinity could only get to within three points before Ignite sealed the deal.
And just for the record, in case there is any lingering doubt, that ball went off the block.
Ignite had won four matches in a row to bring them to the finals and an eagerly anticipated showdown against the erstwhile friendly faces of their sister team, D.A. 15U Black. Ignite’s confidence had grown steadily from the start of the day and they looked forward to the momentum carrying through into this big match. But from the first punishing ball delivered by the deceptively diminutive number 24 – a.k.a Jaimie – and the next seven balls to follow, Ignite realized that they were facing a different kind of competition. A case of the nerves set in. They struggled to keep the serve on our side of the net and D.A. Black, also buoyed by a strong performance that day, took the set by a good margin.
The players waiting on the bench apparently weren’t aware of any of this because they came onto the court swinging like they’d just stepped out of the last match. They gave the Black team a run for their money with a couple of Brianna’s now signature blocks against some big hitters and one play particular that I won’t soon forget: Katrina sets this beautiful ball, Charlotte hammers it into the floor, and the whole Black team dives onto their bellies in a vain attempt to reach it. There were high hopes for a tie-breaking third set until number 18 – a.k.a Madi – pried open the lead and a blistering 34 minutes of excitement came to a close.
Ignite had their first silver medal, happy to share the podium with good friends and former teammates.
There were many remarkable plays during the day not least of which were Halle’s many close, personal engagements with the floor, digging up some challenging balls. Speaking of which, I don’t believe that proper introductions have ever been made, “Halle, meet floor. Floor, meet Halle.”
The team came together once more to tear down the gym and tidy up the cafeteria in a jiffy allowing everyone to get home with time to spare to admire some well-earned hardware. Thanks to Mary Jo and Karen who kept things from coming apart at the seams. And I know that they would like to thank the many hands that helped to make a big task a successful one.
Except for the beginning part. Did I mention the antennae…?