17U Bugarski Cup – March 1st, 2014
Due to reasons this scribe wasn’t privy to, Durham Attack 17U boys weren’t scheduled to play in the Premier division of this tournament. However, mere days before the event, the Coach, noticing some discrepancies in the rankings, made a couple of calls and voila, the boys found themselves, in Waterloo, in a pool with LFVC and Markham Stingers. This made for an intense day of play, right from the 1st whistle.
The first match of the day is never easy for our guys and this day was no different. While Durham did their best to get up to speed in a hurry, London Fire was already stoked from their 1st match which saw them play three close sets against the Stingers. DA started showing some life at the tail end of the 1st set but it wasn’t enough and they went down 17-25.
The second set was a tighter contest with plenty of quick action on both sides of the net. It was a very exciting back and forth duel with the lead changing hands two or three times, thanks to excellent digs and sets from Tyler, solid blocking from Jordan, John and Alex and all around hard hitting from the left, right and straight through the middle. The team as a whole was showing good spirit and attitude, with everyone smiling and talking it up during a Fire timeout. Pity they missed the last two points and dropped the set 23-25.
The Stingers game exemplified just how close these teams are in skill and determination. Durham took an early lead in the 1st set with bold blocking, solid spiking and diving digs, building confidence with every play. Stingers took a timeout at 17-9 and came back digging and hitting harder, if that is even possible, keeping them very much in the game. A few long serves and bad blocks brought the score closer before an excellent set from Tyler allowed Tristan to slam for the 25-20 win. The 2nd set started off as a repeat of the 1st, with Attack taking an early lead with controlled play. Unfortunately, midway through the match DA seemed to lose their concentration and the Stingers were able to grind away at the lead until they tied it up 18-18. From there it was anybody’s game as control switched back and forth on every point and the win was determined, not by who outplayed who, but who blinked first. Stingers took it 24-26. The tiebreaker went to the Stingers, 10-15, as Durham seemed to lose focus and made some back to back fatal errors.
The high caliber of play continued in the next round. It was another three set match against the Pakmen with scores of 23-25, 25-23 and a nailbiting 15-13 win for Durham Attack in the tiebreaker.
The semi-final was a rematch with the Markham Stingers. Again, Durham Attack, with aggressive play and concentrated attacks took a resounding lead before a net serve stopped the run at 11-0. You could see the boys were relaxed and playing their game. However, the Stingers certainly weren’t going to give up without a fight. They continued to push back and pound hard, closing the points gap slowly but decisively. Fortunately, some well placed slams and a solid blocking wall of defence gave Durham the set 25-18. The 2nd set began with more concerted attacks from both squads, keeping the see-saw battle close. Suddenly, for no deducible reason, Durham’s aggressive, yet disciplined attack, stopped. While in no way giving up, the team, to a man, found themselves struggling, especially with defence. Timely digs and blocking helped extend some exciting rally’s, but the end was a 17-25 Stingers triumph. Words cannot describe the 3rd set. Let us just say, at 10-5 the boys were heading to the gold medal game when suddenly, the lights went out all over the world, and when they came back on, the Stingers had won 12-15.
Regrouping for the Bronze medal game apparently wasn’t the easiest task. Although the boys won the 1st set 25-21, they didn’t show much heart or drive in their approach to the game. The Coach had a few choice words of encouragement for the team before the 2nd set. The game became a contest of extended rally’s and alternating leaders as the score rose. The Niagara Rapids held the lead, marginally, for the better part of the set, but with some well set spikes and slams, and their defence reappearing from the abyss to which it had recently dropped, DA tied it up. The result was yet another ping-ponging of the lead: 23-23, 24-24, 25-25, 26-26. The Rapids finally finished it off at 26-28 and we were going to a 3rd set for the 4th time this day. Hey, it’s a medal game……you wouldn’t want it to be easy! A weak start in the 3rd set found Durham Attack down 4-8 at the side switch. A few more choice words from the coaching staff and the boys found inspiration again. They rallied with accurate serves, block splitting hits and acrobatic digs. The outcome however, was by no means assured, as the lead swung back and forth like a pendulum. The suspense ended when John’s serve hit the top of the net and rolled over and the Rapids hit the return wide. Durham Attack won the Bronze with a 17-15 victory. Volleyball, it’s never boring!