January 20, 2019 – Rochester, NY
While all three Durham Attack boys teams in the 14U division of the Rochester CanAm tournament enjoyed some success, none impressed other teams and spectators as much as the 13U Venom team.
Due to the 30-40 cm of snow that was expected, it was with some degree of trepidation that several Durham Attack teams headed to Rochester last week, but all teams ultimately demonstrated the fortitude and fearlessness with which Canadians face winter each year and arrived ready and eager to show what they could do.
Pool play on Saturday saw Venom matched up against MAC Cobalt from Hamilton, ON, Club Lehigh Power from Eastern Pennsylvania, and Lockport VC Black from New York. They took at least one set off each team, including two straight against Lehigh. Finishing up pool play in what appeared to be second place based on number of sets won and lost, Venom thought they were clear until Sunday, so headed back to the hotel for some relaxation and bonding time. Only the bravest of parents and players headed out to shop as the snow started to fall, with others preferring to remain at the hotel. It was fortunate that the parents had not yet commenced their own “bonding” time, because we received word that the organizers considered there to be a three-way tie for second in our pool. That meant a tie-breaker at 7:00 pm, by which time the snow was falling heavily. Team manager Mark Logan did his best to try to get organizers to understand the folly of the tie-breaker, but to no avail.
The tie-breaker was one set to 25 against each team. Venom did have an advantage in the tie-breaker in that MAC and Lehigh had to play first while Venom got a bye to the match against the winner of that set. Venom lost their set to MAC, thus ending up in preliminary playoff pool EE.
In the first match of the preliminaries at 8:00 am Sunday, for which parents had to dig their vehicles out of some significant snow that fell overnight, they played the Hot Shots team from Rochester, who was in their home venue and had slept in their own beds the night before. Venom took a little while to wake up but did so in time to win the first set 27-25 and the second set 25-17. Venom’s serves alternated between wickedly hard and devastatingly soft, and the Hot Shots’ passing was no match for Venom’s serves. The team would like to give a shout out to the Hot Shots team for their sportsmanship in admitting to a touch on a block after the ref called four touches against Venom, which led to a re-serve.
The next match saw Venom face the Capital Sliders from Ballston, NY. Despite often being overmatched in height, Venom shows great maturity and skill in adjusting their game to overcome the opponents’ strengths, and they beat the Sliders in two straight.
That win sent Venom to the Playoffs Silver Bracket. Their first playoff match-up was against the Niagara Legend team from the Canadian side of the border. They dropped the first set 19-25, but came back to win the match with impressive 25-14 and 15-4 sets, the last of which saw Elijah Williams make 11 straight serves. That win set up the next match against BRYC from Virginia. The BRYC team was monstrous compared to our Venom boys and gave Venom a taste of their own medicine with their tough float serves and soft hands. Ultimately, their left side and quick middle attacks were too much for Venom, who lost in two sets, sending BRYC to the final match of the silver bracket against Attack’s Spitfires team. In spite of that loss, Venom’s power, control, and smarts were mentioned by everyone who saw them play.
Venom middle Declan Dunn demonstrated excellent two-way play throughout the tournament, coming up with some solid blocks and well-placed attacks, while Wade Stanley, despite almost being six-packed in the final match, showed great leadership with his defense. Venom would like to recognize coach Mike Stanley, who took over head coaching duties for the weekend, with Fierce coaches Kyriakou and Stanat stepping in to offer their support during the unavoidable absence of coach Mike Slean. Special mention goes to Gabriella Neblett for her videographer duties as we live streamed the last matches to YouTube for those who couldn’t be with us in Rochester.