May 8 – 11, 2014
It was an unusually beautiful spring weekend in Edmonton, making for trouble-free travels for all contestants, whether travelling across town or across the country to attend the 2014 U17 Boys’ Canadian National Championships. The Durham Attack 17U boys, having so recently experienced a not-so-satisfying Provincials outing, were excited for this chance to finish the season on a high note.
Naturally, the DA boys started as they usually do; struggling in the first match to get their rhythm and composure in sync. It was once again a case of the boys making mistakes, not having their head in the game and giving away points. Both sets were close but the Winnipeg Bisons managed to make fewer errors and prevailed 19-25 and 21-25.
The second game of this day one pool play, against the Vulcan Vipers, while not much of a contest for our fellas, gave them a chance to slow down, regroup and remind themselves how to play the game, their way. As the passing, setting and hitting started coming together, you could see a change in the on-court demeanor of the whole team. Jared’s run of four aces, coupled with another two in the set didn’t hurt the outcome either. DA was back on the attack and took the set 25-14. The 2nd set saw a continuance of solid serving as Jordan ran a streak of twelve, with excellent assistance from the blockers and hitters. Everyone contributed to a solid 25-6 performance, with Cody acing the final point.
The day’s final match was against the Surrey Eagles. The confidence built up in the previous game was still with them and the boys came out strong and determined, hitting through blocks and serving strong. Watching the ball, staying focused, DA controlled the pace of the set from start to finish, taking it 25-16. The 2nd set didn’t have quite the runaway feeling of the 1st, as the Eagles provided some fine defensive work and ran up the first few points. It turned into a bit of a seesaw battle until Durham took command with the score tied at 14-14. They went on to make some stellar plays on the way to a 25-18 victory, finishing a respectable second in their pool.
The level of competition raised a notch or two on day 2, as the boys found themselves up against the #1 & #2 teams from Manitoba, and their old nemesis’ from home, the Markham Stingers.
Set 1 vs Winman #1 started on a positive note, as the boys appeared pumped right from the first whistle. Unfortunately, whether it was a case of trying too hard or just not paying enough attention, they lost 15-25 with a frustrating mix of ineffective blocking and inconsistent play. Set #2 saw another strong start with solid hitting and decent defence. Jared was serving extremely well once again and our blocking was also regaining its effectiveness. Alas, it was not to last, as the combination of DA’s lack of effective blocking and Winman’s seemingly solid wall of defence led to a 19-25 defeat.
Up next, the Stingers! The 1st set saw a level of frustration from our guys that was definitely affecting their play early on. Initially they once again lacked decent blocking and serves were not going where they should. But as can, and does happen, after a DA timeout with the score 8-12, with a couple of calls going our way the tide turned. Tristan started us back with some excellent serves, backed up by renewed focus from everyone. It was a big comeback with determined, controlled play, resulting in a 25-21 win. Set 2 was a competition not to be missed. Engrossing action with both sides stepping up their game. The lead switched sides as often as the ball went over the net. Not letting up for an instant, the DA squad dug deep to apply more pressure. There were some good rallies, making for exciting action, as the momentum slowly swung in favour of Durham. Feeling that swing, the Stingers called a timeout with the score 17-14. They started to come back after that, but with the score 22-19, DA called a timeout, effectively stopping this resurgence. Finally, with grit and a determination not to repeat past performances against this Stingers team, Durham attacked again and again, letting up only at the final whistle, taking a 25-22 victory. It was a very satisfying performance.
As noted, the 3rd game, following immediately upon the heels of the Stingers defeat, pitted the boys against the Winman #2 team. The adrenaline was pumping as the boys hit the court and without skipping a beat, picked up right where they left off against the Stingers. Each and every teammate was up to this challenge, serving with precision, setting and hitting with confidence and blocking like there was a set of their mother’s fine china right behind them. Once again playing with focus and a renewed energy, the Durham boys never trailed in this set, but did experience some very tense moments on their way to the 25-22 win. In the 2nd set, the boys did lose the lead early on and it became a game of catch up, which generally isn’t one of the team’s favoured positions. With some timely blocks to aid a run of six excellent serves by Tyler, DA came even at 21-21. This made for a very exciting finish, with the evenly matched teams trading points until Tristan served for two consecutive points and John slammed home the winner for a 28-26 final. One couldn’t have asked for a better day’s entertainment.
Regrettably, the final day of competition didn’t favour our boys at all. Losing a very close 1st set against the eventual Bronze Medal winners, the Calgary Elite West, one got the impression the boys had a chance, if they could only find an answer to the seemingly impenetrable blocking wall they found themselves up against. They could not. But when all was said and done, Durham Attack 17U Boys Black finished their season by improving on their 9th place Ontario ranking to a respectably ranked 5th in Canada and still had time for a visit to the veritable wonderland which is West Edmonton Mall.
Congratulations to Aleks(aka Cody), Alex, Bradley, Brandon, Jared, John, Jon, Jordan, Nelson, Tristan and Tyler. And a hearty “well done” to coaches Mike, Kevin and Winston.