Penn State Nittany Ninvitational February 1 & 2, 2014
Back to back championships in USA tournaments? We can only hope our Olympians have the same good fortunes in the coming weeks. Not that I am suggesting our boys are of the same calibre as our Olympians, but you get the analogy.
Yes, the 17U Boys Black, on a high after taking the Silver Division gold medal just two weeks earlier in Rochester, put on another great show as once again they won 6 of their 8 matches on their way to another Silver Division Championship. This time they started with a hard challenge from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Volleyball Club team 172. While Durham hung in and gave it their all, we know from experience the boys aren’t at their best first thing in the morning. This morning was no different! They dropped the first set 27-29, before washing the sleep out of their eyes and winning the following two sets (three sets played to 25 for this pool) 25-18 & 25-20.
Game two was against a young team from Ohio and our boys, while still working out the early morning kinks, won in three straight sets, 25-12, 25-19 and 25-19.
The Ultimate B17 Blue team from Illinois was another story. They came on strong from point 1 and didn’t let up. While it was never a runaway, our guys just couldn’t make up those first few points and although close, the 1st set went to Ultimate 22-25. Durham dug deep, playing with determination, but they struggled throughout, and sets 2 & 3 also went to Ultimate, 22-25 and 23-25.
Knowing that Saturday was an example of “not so much the other teams winning but our team losing” through lack of focus and careless play execution, Sunday was going to be better. Disappointingly, the first game, which decided who played in the gold division and who went to silver, saw Durham Attack on their heels more often than not, serving into the net all too often and missing on key blocks, resulting in losses of 23-25 and 17-25 against The Braddock Road Volleyball Club from Virginia. It didn’t help that we lost Jordan for the rest of the day after he rolled his ankle.
Applying the age old adage “don’t get mad, get even”, the boys did just that, and more. Of course there were plenty of nailbiting moments as their inconsistent play continued, but they never looked back. Against Pennsylvania’s Panther 17Gold, Durham did indeed attack and took the 1st set 25-15. The 2nd set, another up and down struggle with plenty of pressure from both teams, was won 26-24 after some excellent rallies and solid offence. Another tense moment came when our setter Brad went down clutching his knee. Happily he was up and back playing within a minute or two.
The next opponents made us feel at home. The Ottawa Fusion 17U team saw a relaxed and focused Durham Attack team across the net. While Fusion had some good serving and net action of their own, our guys finally found the drive and determination that had been missing in earlier play. All the boys suddenly seemed in sync, resulting in excellent serving, outstanding blocking and notably Cody’s back row digging. Fusion went home defeated 25-19 & 25-17.
The semi-final against Long Island, NY’s LIVC continued the thrilling rollercoaster ride. DA took the 1st set 25-18, with more great defence and strong pounding slams. Then the 2nd set saw our guys momentarily slip into an alternate dimension, giving away the set 12-25. Set 3 was the fight of the weekend. Coming out of the gate like a three legged pony with his jockey on backwards, the boys were outplayed and looking for all intent and purpose like we were on the early bird home. At the mid-set switch they were down 2-8…remember what I have said about the team not being very good at playing catchup? Well, to quote another age old adage, “never say die”! Perhaps the coach had some inspiring words, perhaps they just liked that side of the court, or perhaps they finally decided they didn’t like the taste of defeat. Whatever the cause, suddenly DA was diving, digging and pounding the ball again, and what a thrilling come back it was to witness. After some quality defence and a couple of solid serves we started gaining. Clawing back, the score went to 8-10 to 10-12 to 14-14, and a visibly shaken LIVC timeout.The final points saw DA serve long, LIVC touch the net on a block, LIVC hit wide and DA wins 17-15 with a block off John’s head LIVC didn’t return. Hey, whatever works!
The championship game found Durham Attack going up against Lehigh 171 – remember DA’s first match on Saturday? Almost poetic in it’s symmetry! Anyway, another nailbiter ensued as both teams played for all they were worth, matching point for point with hard hitting slams, acing serves and one fantastic diving dig by Tyler to keep them pumped. Lehigh had a run of net calls which didn’t help their mindset, and while Durham managed to give away a few points after a Lehigh 23-20 timeout, Tristan’s tip over and a Tyler/Tristan big block finished off the set with a 25-23 win. The final set was another exciting see-saw battle until the midway point. I repeat, when Durham’s serving and blocking is working they dominate and with plays like Jared running up the wall to get a pass, Nelson’s serve rolling over the net, and Tristan’s three in a row big blocks, the boys were not to be denied. The championship was theirs with a triumphant score of 25-20.