January 17 found our girls of Durham Attack Black facing 14U competition at the aptly named Challenge Cup. Driven by their ambition to advance to the Championship level they arrived in Stouffville under the pressure that accompanies high expectations. Guided by this collective desire in their hearts, and individual goals tucked in their shoes, the girls maintained a laser focus throughout their matches as they faced obstacles both real and of their own creation. This, in the end, made the difference in allowing latent potential to be realized as the girls left the court both adorned with gold and with the shared satisfaction of having met the challenge.
Pool play offered little in the way of strong opposition as our girls took to the court against the Phoenix Blaze and the Markham Stingers Black. While there were memorable moments in the match against Blaze, including some explosive hitting and a save that violated three laws of physics, it was really only a matter of serving in the 25-6, 25-7 sets as the young Phoenix team’s serve receive was ill equipped to contend with the torrent that was rained down upon them. The match against the Stingers went much the same save for a brief misadventure in serve receive. Once again exhibiting control in their passing, as well as power and guile in their finishing, the ladies in black unleashed another salvo from behind the service line to take the match quite easily 25-10, 25-14. This left our girls first in their pool as the lunch gong was struck, awaiting their playoff opponent to be determined.
The girls returned to the court for quarter-final play to find themselves across the net from clubmates, Illusion. Suffering the effects of a long layoff, the Black were slow in starting against the skilled Illusion team, falling behind by three points in early action. In time, however, troubled serve receive, serving, and hitting was resolved as the girls refocused to take the lead and put pressure on their opponents. It was at this point that an unfortunate rotation error on the part of Illusion caused them a devastating setback that destroyed any hope of them recovering their momentum. Sensing a chance to put the set away, the girls of Black jumped on the opportunity like a monkey on a cupcake for a 25-11 finish. Obviously dejected by the outcome of the first set, Illusion struggled with their serve receive throughout the second, and aided by a ten-point serving run our girls won again by a score of 25-11. Although the victory was decisive on the score card Durham Attack Illusion proved that they are never a team to take lightly and we expect we will be seeing them at Championship level soon.
Following the quarter-final victory came the return match that everyone had been anticipating since the Provincial Cup, pitting our girls against their traditional nemesis, the STVC Titanium. Owing to seeding, this clash of rivals, which justly should have been the gold medal match, was to take place in the semi-finals. This fact served only to increase the pressure on the girls as they faced an opponent they had never beaten and who stood in their path to gold. Any nervousness seemed well-contained, however, as the Black were all business as they took to the court for the first set. Demonstrating tremendous defensive skill and consistently dominant serving they overwhelmed the Titans who soon found themselves floundering and behind 24-7. While at this point our reliably excellent serve receive had to make a quick trip to the washroom, it fortunately returned in time to complete the strong 25-17 first set victory. The second set, however, saw a reversal of fortunes as our girl’s energy lagged causing them to struggle with their finishing and serve receive. A resurgent Titanium was quick to take advantage of our loss of momentum, and despite fighting back gamely from behind, our girls fell 14-25, forcing yet another third set battle with the Scarborough team. Having never beaten the Titans in a game to 15 the tension was palpable as Coach Banbury sent his six to the floor with movement to Championship level on the line. The game commenced with the Attack surrendering the first point to Titanium. In the stands parents suffered heart palpitations and bit their nails to the quick as on the court their girls resolved to put bronze medals around the necks of their opponent. Following Coach Kiana’s game plan and exhibiting gritty determination, the Black took the lead and then proceeded to counter every potential Titan resurrection. Finally proving that Titanium isn’t bulletproof (sorry David Guetta), the girls in black fought valiantly for every point until the final ball hit the floor for a 15-10 Attack victory. Coach, player and parent alike exploded in recognition of the accomplishment as the girls now looked towards the gold medal game.
As expected, the Challenge Cup final seemed somewhat anticlimactic as our girls once again met the Stingers Black. As in the earlier game it was very much a shooting gallery for the DA girls as little more than freeballs found their way back from the Markham side of the court in the brief 25-9, 25-10 sets.
As they awaited the awarding of the medals, spectators were witness to what seemed a bizarre ritual as the tournament’s victors sat in a circle and removed their shoes. From inside they pulled the promises to themselves that they had carried both literally and figuratively throughout the day. Now soiled and reeking, these little slips of paper had served as a concrete reminder of the value of concentrating on what is within your power to control. Coupled with the day’s results they also testified to what eleven focused and talented individuals joined in common purpose could accomplish. In the end, while their gold medals were celebrated, they were valued more for what they represented – a ticket up to Championship level where the girls belong. The Black will return to their practice gym buoyed by having met this challenge but aware that storms await on the horizon. They will be prepared.
While eleven girls take the court each week to sweat and suffer floor burns, they appreciate that behind them stands a family of generous supporters. This week the girls of Black would like to thank one key contributor to their “Empties for Calgary” fundraiser: BATL – The Home of Axe Throwing. Available for parties, private functions and team building, BATL also offers league play. Find them on the web at www.batl.ca. Patronize them not only for the fun of throwing axes, but also because they are good people. Go BATL! Go Durham Attack!
Article written by Dave Farrell