The last regular season 15U tournament saw Ignite make their way to the nation’s capital to participate in their second tournament in Championship. Families arrived variously before, during and after the snow storm to spend the night in the Hamptons before making the short jaunt over to Samuel Genest for the day’s adventure.
In our first match of the day Ignite faced Peterborough Thunder, a team ranked seventh to our sixth place standing. Thunder had some tall players and big arms but in the first set they fell to Ignite’s steady play having managed only 13 points. Ignite opened up a six point lead early in the second set which we maintained through to the end though, tellingly, Peterborough matched us nearly point for point for the remainder of the set, their game having notably improved.
Ignite next faced the number one ranked team in this tournament, and ultimate gold medal winner, Maverick Ambush. Ambush took a small lead which Ignite chipped away at until, at seven points, we pulled ahead. Ambush responded by subbing in a new server who broke our brief dominance. Ignite then took the serve back but was then stalled for several points in the middle of the game as Ambush rained down powerful jump serves and hits that Ignite learned to dig up but could not capitalize upon. The next time Ignite took a point Ambush again responded by bringing in a new server and then another as Ignite continued to reduce Ambush’s lead. At a score of 19-15 Ambush subbed in yet another server who this time brought Ambush to within one. Ignite took a final point before the hard fought set concluded.
The second set played out differently from the first with Ambush quickly taking a large lead. When Ignite began to recover Ambush again made a substitution; this time replacing both the server and left power allowing them to vault to 18 points to our 5. Ignite then executed a long service run of our own in a first effort to balance the scales. Ambush took a few more points before again subbing the server and left power, this time with ill effect. Ignite took the next seven points narrowing the game to 23-19. The tantalizing prospect of a third set was short lived, however, when Ambush regained the serve, subbed back in the server who had created the opening lead, and closed the match.
Ignite then sat for a marathon three hours while pools B and C drew to a lengthy close and the pre-quarter final match played out on our next court. This left plenty of time to spread out a blanket and have a picnic in a cubby off the main corridor seemingly designed for this purpose. Time, also, for the coaches to work up some sort of voodoo magic and – what else? – dance party!
It was then time for a repeat match against our sister team, Durham Attack Black, the eventual silver medal winners. Ignite played well against Black in the first set until midway through when our game softened and Black pulled ahead 24-15. Ignite rallied to 20 before Black notched up the game point. Ignite scored the first pair in the second set and points were traded back and forth until Black tied it at 6. Ignite then broke open the lead and, after a brief rally by Black, played to a 25-17 win.
In the third set Ignite and Black jockeyed for the first few points until, tied at 4, a strong serving run brought our team to the change of sides and to a healthy six point lead. The serve changed sides as Ignite brought the game to within one point of a major upset. Black took the next point and with it the momentum that we had built up since the start of the day and our one chance at a medal in this tournament. A familiar nemesis moved into the serving position for the Black team and, point by point, erased our lead and brought their team back from the brink of disaster, concluding three sets of the strongest and most exciting volleyball that Ignite has brought to the court.
Ignite had another longish break until play concluded on court 3 and we took the floor to meet Peterborough Thunder for the second time that day. Ignite felt confident of a win owing to the outcome at the start of the day but conditions had shifted subtly to our opponent’s favour. Peterborough took the lead early in both sets and though Ignite fought to take it back, Thunder fought harder to keep it.
Ignite had played admirably in the previous match but was disheartened to watch the fruits of an impressive effort slip away. Peterborough had just come off of a win. Ignite was playing to retain a higher standing, we had something to lose. Peterborough was eager to claim it. The Peterborough team played the match with spirit and confidence buoyed by vociferous support from their bench and their onlookers.
In the previous match we had watched D. A. Black do something miraculous, mounting an eleventh hour rally to stave off a loss that was imminent with each serve. We hoped for our own miracle as the second set against Peterborough drew to a close but it wasn’t to be. Thunder had won the mental game and with it the match.
What stood out during this tournament was that Ignite can play a strong match against the best of them. And that when the team plays with spirit and feeds off of each other’s enthusiasm great things happen. Let’s look forward to more of the animated play that we saw from Ignite this day when we return to the Limestone City for our final 16U tournament!
This time we’ll have Hope on our side. Seriously, Hope will be back from vacation…