Ignite trekked up the 400 this weekend to have a first go at Championship level play in sunny Barrie, Ontario. The weatherman promised freezing rain for the drive up but, despite some chilly temperatures and frozen slush in the parking lots, the team assembled at St. Joan of Arc for the day’s travail. The greater challenge, perhaps, was finding the entrance to the building which would have remained hidden if not for the ant-like procession of players and families making their way inside.
Ignite played two games in a row right off the top against teams ranked third and fourth to our debutante ninth place ranking. Down to ten players due to an injury, Ignite found Markham Unity to be a challenging opponent and gave up the first set quickly. The second set saw Ignite play a stronger game and build momentum which carried over into the second match against Barrie Elites Black. Our play continued to improve in this match but we were not able to take a set though Barrie’s lead was kept to a handful of points in each game.
Pool play over it was time to sit down to lunch which featured, in addition to the usual fare, a skillet of jerk chicken and a casserole of rice and beans. The Wood family has thrown down the gauntlet to the next family on meats! Boeuf Bourguignon anyone? The lunch break also meant study time for a few (only a few!) industrious players, admiration of Carolyn’s new hair cut and a round of how-well-do-you-know-your-teammates before returning to the court for an intra-club rivalry.
Rumour has it 14U Invasion came into the first match of the afternoon quite confident of a success. While the first set suggested that the very opposite was in store for them, the second saw them charge back for a 27-25 win. The last set was close but ultimately went to yours truly allowing Ignite to advance to the quarter finals while Invasion proceeded to the consolation round.
The quarter final round pitted Ignite against first place ranked Georgian Bay Cubs. Some (me) may have expected a rout in such a scenario but our team made a fair showing of it and went into the battle for 5th and 7th – the battle to stay in Championship or pack your bags for a trip back to Trillium – with their heads held high.
This key match pitted Ignite against Barrie Elites Black for the second time that day after losing two straight to the team in pool play. The first set was a closely fought duel in which the lead was never more than three points for either team and was traded back and forth several times before finishing up with Barrie. The next game was a similarly tight skirmish with Ignite seeing a four point lead slip away late in the set only to rally for a 25-22 win.
Giggles broke out at one point when our very own Marty went well above and beyond to mop up a wet ball with his own t-shirt. Not sure what was going through our players’ minds…
In the last set of the day, which should have been a desperate, pitched battle for coveted territory, Ignite earned the first point and held this early lead until the game’s conclusion. Our team had shown that the move up to Championship level was deserved and is a prize worth fighting for. This game’s success had brought us to a level footing with the top team in our pool at the start of the day and sent the fourth place ranked team back to Trillium for the next tournament.
Sorry ’bout that.
Ignite’s team dynamic grew palpably over the course of this day, with strong communication and smart ball handling foreshadowing exciting matches to come at our first 16U tournament of the season in Kingston.