Junior teams aren't supposed to win senior tournaments.
The Duchess Park Condors came oh-so-close to pulling off that unlikely feat.
The Condors advanced all the way to the championship final of the PGYVC Kodiak Classic senior girls volleyball tournament and, once there, put a scare into the College Heights Cougars. The match, played Saturday night at CNC, ended 25-19, 25-23 in favour of the Cougars but they had to fight from behind to win the second and deciding set.
"They definitely gave us a run for our money," Cougars captain Morgan Samuelson said of the Condors, who have five Grade 9s and five Grade 10s in their lineup. "They're a good team, I'm just glad we could come out with the win.
"We just never got down on ourselves," Samuelson added. "We stay as a team no matter what happens and I think that's going to take us far."
The Condors were understandably nervous in the first set and it showed. However, they settled down in the second and played inspired defence to give themselves a lead that they held until the late stages. When Duchess Park's Madison Landry won a battle at the net, the Condors were up 23-19. But, with a set victory in sight, they backed off slightly and the Cougars took advantage. College Heights won the next six points, the last of which was a match-clinching kill shot by Samuelson.
The Cougars are formed by four Grade 11s and eight Grade 12s. That additional experience proved to be the difference.
"Grade 12s versus Grade 9s, that should speak volumes and it should help any team win any match," said Cougars coach Jason Olexyn. "Definitely, you've got to give [the Condors] credit. For juniors, they played really well."
In the semifinal round, the Duchess Park juniors beat their school's senior team 25-18, 25-22. Obviously, the victory was a thrilling one for the youngsters.
"They were pretty excited," said coach Kim Forrest. "They were just in awe. The nice thing about the whole thing was, the senior team was really good about it. They said, 'Congratulations, we're really proud of you.' So it was really great for them."
All tournament, the junior Condors played spectacular defence and were able to force opposing teams into mistakes.
"They're a great defensive team and they pass well and it really helped them this weekend," Forrest said. "That was the one comment from all the coaches -- that we can pass and play defence -- and I take pride in how good they are at that. And we'll work on the offence as time goes on."
In the bronze-medal match, the Cedars Christian School Eagles defeated the senior Condors.
In the post-tournament awards ceremony, Samuelson was recognized as the MVP, while junior Condor Brooklyn Norman got the nod as the top defensive player. All-stars were: Mercedes Minck (College Heights); Courteney Crellin (College Heights); Hallie Drezet (Duchess Park Junior); Brooke Unger (Duchess Park Junior); Laura Linton (Duchess Park Senior); and Calyssa DeBoer (Kelly Road).
Fourteen teams competed in the girls division of the Kodiak Classic, which was the first high school volleyball tournament of the year.
On the boys side of the Classic, Duchess Park defeated the D.P. Todd Trojans 25-14, 25-16 in the gold-medal match. See Wednesday's Citizen for the story.