Strong showing for U16 squad in U18 tournament
The Clarenville U16 Winter Games team may have entered the U18 VolleyWest tournament in Corner Brook as underdogs, but they sure didn't play like it.
The Clarenville team ran through the round robin undefeated with three wins against no losses and polished off a big win against Cloud River in the semi-final, only to be ousted in three sets by the host, Corner Brook.
© Contributed photo
Clarenville's U16 Winter Games volleyball team earned silver medals at VolleyWest in Corner Brook this past weekend. Back Row (Left to Right): Coach Matt White, Brett Organ, Andrew Pearce, Avery Balsam, Kevin Manning, Andrew Moody, Marcus Baker, Jonathan Rowe. Middle Row (Left to Right): Jon Williams, John Button, Collin Frost, Morgan Gregory. Front Row: Brent Wareham. Isadore Snook also coaches the team. Contributed photo
Still, a silver medal for a U16 team against teams two years their senior is nothing to be ashamed about.
"We had a great weekend," said coach Matt White.
"It was a 18U tournament and they are 16U boys. I can't complain about that."
The team only lost two sets all weekend, both coming in their loss against Corner Brook.
Clarenville dropped a close first set 25-22 and White told the Packet his boys looked defeated against a bigger, stronger Corner Brook team.
"We got into a bit of a rut against Corner Brook," White said.
"They had a lot of fans there cheering so it was very noisy in the gym. Corner brook has a big team. The boys on average were a foot taller than most of my boys. They had height. If you stacked my team shortest to tallest against theirs, there's definitely a foot in the difference. They were beat when they came to the bench. They looked at me and said 'Sir, can we do it?' I said of course we can do it. Just make sure you're putting the ball in the court."
That's exactly what they did in the second set, winning it 25-17, setting up a third and decisive set.
"In the third set, we were up 12-9 at one point," White said.
"We were juicing it in the third. Then Corner Brook turned on the gas and had a few big blocks. The boys just couldn't connect. The crowd and the noise and everything got in their heads. Plus, they're not used to losing.
"When Paul Power was coaching these boys (last year), they won every banner in the province and washed every team. They were the most dominant team in the province for their age category. They're not used to losing. After losing the first set, they didn't know how to deal with having to come back."
VolleyWest will serve as an excellent training ground for the team that is set to represent the host region at the upcoming Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games to be held in Clarenville in March.
While some would be quick to call a third set loss a setback, the team will be playing games against some of the best volleyballers in the region to ensure they're ready for the big tournament.
"We have two more tournaments coming up in the next two weekends," White said.
"We have VolleyCentral in Gander and VolleyFest, the biggest one of the year for most teams, in St. John's. Then we're going to be having hardcore practices two nights per week."
The Winter Games squad also get regular playing time in the Clarenville men's volleyball league, playing against the town's top men's and high school teams.
"The boys are getting lots of competition, arguably the best competition they're getting against men's teams and the high school A and B teams. They're the youngest team in the league and they put up a fight. They're 2-1 right now. They beat one of the men's teams and then they beat the high school B team. They're really good."
White admits the team's goal is to win the Winter Games tournament but insists there's still a long road and a lot of technical work to be done before gold medals will be placed around their necks.
"The road to the Winter Games is going to be a long one," he said.
"I think we still have a lot of things to work on. Our defense, we have problems with our middles getting out to the poles for blocking, and that opens up gaps for the other team to squeak balls through. Serving is another issue. We had a couple of players that missed 80 percent of their serves this weekend. In a game like that, you can't be at that. We need to teach the boys some basic simple serving."
"They knew they were the underdog in the tournament. They put up a big fight and I'm proud of them. They did well for such a young team."