14U Nationals 2010

Our 14U team and coaches were really looking forward to the Western Canadian Championships in Saskatoon on May 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th. 2010. Everyone was reasonably healthy and the entire team was able to make the trek to Saskatoon, a position they dearly missed being in for Provincials. The 17th place finish in Provincials meant we were going to be playing in Division II in the Western Canadians. Not our first choice, but that was the hand we were dealt and everyone was determined to make the best of it.

As it turned out, Division II had the morning draw each day, which was a real pleasure to play in, no late games! This meant we weren’t sitting around, waiting half the day to get started and we were able to have an early supper and then have some swim time and relaxation before bed.

The opening ceremonies were great with all teams being introduced and the ceremonies took up just the right amount of time. Better still, our athletes got to walk in behind an absolutely killer team banner they’d created. They’d done such a fine job on it that they were one of the winners of the banner contest. Thanks very much to the organizers for the terrific prize, an East Side Mario’s gift card. We used it Friday night and had such a great meal that we went back on Saturday night.

It was early to bed on Thursday night, as we played at 8:00 the next morning. We started the day ranked first in our pool, and while we played 3 very different matches, at the end of the day we were still undefeated. Our first game was against the 13U Saskatoon Smash and with very consistent serving, we were pretty dominant throughout the match. Against Hall’s 14U Bisons in our second match, we almost seemed like we wanted to wait until the middle of the second set to start playing. Having given away a multitude of points for various reasons and after trailing by a significant amount in the second match, we fought back to take the match in three, (17-25, 27-25, 16-14). The two match break after that gave us a little time to think about what we were there to do and when we stepped onto the court for our third match against the number two ranked team in our pool, Element Eclipse, the athletes were focused. Our girls decided that it didn’t matter who they were playing, they were not going to dig a hole and try to get out in this match. That’s exactly what they did, they controlled the match, made very few errors and dominated the offensive play to win the match in two sets, (25-18, 25-13). Lots of excitement that first day.

Day II of play had us placed first in our pool again, only the teams we were up against were all first or second place finishers in their day I pools. Again, we played at 8:00, 10:15 and 1:30, so we had a great schedule. We played very well in our first two matches, winning against Sub Zero Breeze from Whitehorse (25-13, 25-7) and KVC Chaos (25-21, 25-20). In our last game of the day, we played the other first place team in our pool. Although we started out strong, we ended up on the wrong side of a 25-17, 17-25, 11-15 match. Our girls didn’t quit in this match, it was very intensely contested, right to the 15th point of the third set. However, this last team didn’t have their best day, either, having lost both of their matches earlier in the day against teams we’d beaten so with that little bit of help, we ended up winning our day II pool. This put us in the Division II, Tier I playoffs and the team was thrilled.

On Sunday, our first playoff match was against Hunter’s 13U Bisons team from Manitoba. While we dominated the offensive play, they continued a slow, steady process of putting the ball back over the net. While the match did go to three, our girls definitely took charge in the last set. Of note in that match was seeing our team rally from being down 11-2 in the second set to come back and force a third set, a set where Chella Thornton served the ball 13 consecutive times, providing the athletes the opportunity to play a very strong 15-2 match closing effort. Our next match was the semi-final and we faced one of the tallest teams in Division II, the Saint Albert Saints. Our girls executed very well on all aspects of the game in this match and while it was a close competition, by the end of last whistle we’d scored enough points to advance to the gold medal match. We were pitted against the Saskatoon Smash and we knew we were up against another great team with a lot of offensive punch. This definitely ended up being the type of gold medal match that everyone loves to watch. We lost the first 22-25, but won the second set, 25-17. There was plenty of exciting action, crushing hits, and amazing saves. It was a match with numerous momentum swings, with the 403 Selects being ahead 13-9 in the third set. The Smash rallied though and ended up victorious with a 15-13 decision. It was a thrilling battle and while it was a tough loss, for our girls to be able to look up into the stands and see a raucous, heart felt, standing ovation from their supporters, well,  that was a really amazing sight.

Congratulations to all the 14U 403 Selects athletes and coaches on their tremendous efforts. Their silver medal finish is something that they can be tremendously proud of. One of the truly beautiful things about this team is that they do not give up on each other, they support each other and they continue to improve and to build character. They do this because they believe in each other and that is not something you see with all teams. Look out, 2011!

It was a great weekend and of course we would be remiss without extending a huge thank you to all of the parents for their support all weekend and all season long. It’s hard to believe the season is over, but it will definitely be one that’s looked back on with wonderful memories for all involved.