Over the weekend, our Durham Attack 17U Black team competed at the 2017 Ontario Provincial Championships. All the top teams from around the province travelled to Waterloo to participate in this 3-day tournament. The theme for this event was ‘parity’. In any given match, each of top 6-8 teams had a viable chance of winning. This equality amongst the teams was quite evident, as there were lots of upsets during the first two days of Pool Play.
Despite our #1 seeding going into the tournament, we did manage to drop a few sets during Pool Play. More critically, we lost a 3-set match to our arch-rivals, Pakmen Gold on Day 2. Both teams are considered the top 2 teams in the province, and the loss was decided by a single point at the end. Fortunately, this match loss did not knock us out of the tournament, but rather forced a tougher Playoff bracket schedule on Day 3.
During the quarter-finals, we fended off the upstart Storm Riptide 16U team in two straight sets. After a rough two days of inconsistent play (with lots of missed serves and unforced errors), our team was finally starting to play to our peak potential… i.e. pinpoint passing, precision setting, fast attacks to the pins and solid defensive transitions. Our players were once again rising to the occasion.
In the semi-finals, we would once again square off against Pakmen Gold. For the past 3 years, we had beaten Pakmen Gold in the finals of this prestigious event. This year, however, our inevitable confrontation would take place during the semi-finals instead of the finals. Both teams started apprehensively and traded big kill shots. Neither team was able to establish any tempo nor was able to secure more than a 2-point lead in the first set. Down 20-22, we made a slight mental error. We tried to substitute two players, but our second substitution was considered late and disallowed. With a non-optimal front-court line-up, Pakmen took advantage of this slight miscue and scored a critical point to extend the lead to 23-20. After some timeouts and some jaw-dropping defensive plays, we did manage to pull even at 24-24. But we couldn’t reverse the momentum and lost 25-27 in the first set.
Faced with a “win-or-go-home” situation in the second set, our DA boys roared back with some outstanding play to remind the opponent why we were the current defending Champions. We served incredibly tough, often forcing the Pakmen offense out-of-system, which created a lot of tips, free balls or easy roll shots to defend. Our transition offense simply overpowered the scrappy Pakmen defense. We seized a commanding 21-12 lead and never looked back. We won the second set by a huge margin, 25-14. Vintage DA!!
With momentum at our backs to start the third and deciding set, Pakmen exhibited some great resilience. They streamed their offense thru the middle and wowed the crowds with some big bounce kills inside the attack line. We responded by spreading out our offense. Our middle attacker would run fake quick attacks down the middle or into the gaps. In turn, our setter would loop tempo sets to our outside hitters at the pins (both left side and opposite) or back-court pipe attacks to create timing mismatches. At the technical turn, we led 8-7 with an ace that split the seam of the Pakmen passers and touched the back line.
The environment at RIM Park was electrifying. Crowds of fans lined the court often going 5-6 people deep. On every point scored, the cheers were loud and deafening. The tension was running high. Nerves were starting to have an impact, as both teams missed 2 serves each late in the game. At 12-12, Pakmen shanked a tough serve and their attacker was forced to roll a shot over the net just to keep the play alive. Our left-side hitter dug the ball up, but it was behind the attack line. Consequently, our setter only had one option… to set a high ball to back-court pipe. Pakmen read this developing play and committed to a triple block. Six big hands reached high to cut off the attack angles. Instead of trying to blast a spike thru the towering block, our back-court attacker chose to roll an off-speed shot over the block and into the pot. Being shielded by the triple block, the Pakmen defenders’ reaction were slightly delayed and the ball found the court surface. Point DA!! Both teams then traded unforced errors (hitting out-of-bounds by Pakmen and a net violation by DA) and the score was 14-13. At the gold medal match point, we ran a very simple sideout play… a high ball to our left-side hitter. At this time, our outside hitter was our hottest attacker, having scored many points during the match. Confronting a huge double block, our hitter swung high and hard, off the blockers’ fingers and into the deep back corner between the defenders to score the final point. Whew!!
In the finals, we competed against the Pakmen 16U team. Yes, another Pakmen team. This team was the younger version. Apparently, this 16U team had pulled off upsets of several 17U teams in their Playoff Bracket with their relentless defensive play. We had beaten this team several times already this season, and we clearly had a huge size advantage at the net. The match itself would be considered anti-climactic (compared to the semi-finals), as we swept a 2-set win: 25-15, 25-23. Gold medal!
Congrats to our Durham Attack 17U Black team for repeating as 4-time Ontario Provincial Champions!! See attached for a Team Pic. Thanks to our coaching staff of Mike Slean, Nikos Chalaris and Ian Eibbitt for leading the way. Special mention should be extended to Isaac Northcott, Trystan Morris-Fraser and Justin Lui for being recognized as OVA All-Stars.
We now have a few weeks of rest before travelling to Saskatoon to defend our Canada National championship title.
Go Attack Go!!