The OVA Indoor volleyball season kicked off this past weekend. Our DA 16U Black Boys opened the season with an age-up tournament competing in the 17U Provincial Cup. We were excited to get started. As two-time repeat Provincial champions, our DA 16U Black team features a solid core of returning players plus 2 new outstanding athletes. Moreover, we added a brand new coaching staff including Head Coach Mike Slean along with Assistant Coaches Ian Eibbitt and Nikos Chalaris.
The first tournament of the OVA season is a seeding tournament, and the participating teams are typically grouped based upon geography. Our tournament field was strong, as it included three teams from Pakmen (17U Gold, 17U Black and 16U Gold) and two teams from Aurora Storm (Thunder 17U and Inferno 16U). We would have home-court advantage, since the tournament was held at Maxwell Heights (Oshawa).
In Pool Play, our first match of the season pitted our boys against Pakmen Gold 17U. What an incredible test! This Pakmen 17U Gold team were the defending Provincial Champions (in this age category) and also last year’s Canada National Silver Medalists. Being a year younger, our boys were competing at a slight disadvantage: being physically smaller, having less experience and hitting / blocking at a higher net height (for this 17U division).
The first set started tentatively. We fell behind early 7-11 with a series of unforced hitting errors. An early timeout calmed the nerves, and we were able to battle back but still couldn’t erase the 4-pt deficit until late in the set. Down 18-22, we started to mount a comeback with some inspired hitting from the left side and some disciplined defense. With a big middle block, we were able to fend off a set point, and then surged to win the first set 26-24.
The second set was a complete see-saw battle. Neither team was able to get more than a 2-pt lead, as the score was tied 16 times until late in the game: 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 9-9, 10-10, 13-13, 15-15, 16-16, 17-17, 18-18, 21-21, 22-22 and 23-23. It was clear that both teams were evenly matched, and that the game would be decided by the slimmest of margins. At this critical junction, we mistimed a middle quick attack, but then Pakmen served the ball out-of-bounds: 24-24. Pakmen then reverted back to their power game – high ball sets and booming attacks from the left side. Team defense is typically our strength, but our Libero dug the ball too high and it touched the roof. At set point, Pakmen again smashed it thru the block, but our 6-back defender made an incredible dig to even the score again: 25-25. Pakmen took the lead with another thundering shot that was dug by our Libero, but again it touched the ceiling. Argh! Did the roofs shrink?
Once again facing set point, our defense held tough and evened the score by a Pakmen hitting error from back-court pipe position. We then serve an ace, just over the net right in front of the attack line to take a lead. Our boys seized this opportunity to close out the match, 28-26, with a Pakmen hands violation call. What an incredible comeback win!
After this monumental victory, our boys carried the momentum and sailed past the Galaxy Solars 17U in two straight sets: 25-14, 25-10. We finished first in our Pool and earned a bye straight to the Quarter-Finals.
Due to the quirkiness of the schedule, however, this hard-earned bye did not help. Actually, it may have hindered us. Right after this match, we had to ref a match and sit thru another match (since another Pool had 4 teams). After Pool Play, we then had to sit thru a 25-min Lunch break, and then ref another crossover match (pre-quarter finals). In total, our boys sat around for more than 4 hours to wait to play again.
In the quarter finals, our DA 16U Black team faced the Aurora Storm 16U Inferno team. Both teams are familiar with each other, since we both compete in the same age division. We may have had a slight psychological advantage, as we had never lost to this team over the past 3 years. But Storm Inferno had something to prove. Three of their current starters were former Durham Attack players, and they were determined to “knock the chip off their proverbial shoulder”. Storm Inferno started the match energized with a huge bounce kill shot on an errand overbump pass. Their inspired play continued and was unrelenting. After such a long break, our boys played flat and weren’t able to match the intensity. We lost in two straight sets: 21-25, 20-25.
After this disappointing upset, the pressure was off. We were knocked out of medal contention for this tournament, and we would be competing for the Consolation placing. For 5th place, we would face the Pakmen 17U Black team. In this match, our boys played more relaxed and quickly dispatched the older opponent in convincing fashion: 25-20, 25-13.
All in all, we had a good tournament despite finishing 5th. If you had asked any of the coaches before the tournament whether they would consider it a success if we beat both Pakmen 17U Gold and 17U Black teams, the answer would surely have been a definitive YES. We proved that we can compete against the very best teams at the older division.
Looking forward to another exciting season of volleyball… Go Attack Go!!