At provincials St. Thomas edged in Division Two tier one final by Kingston
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
ST. THOMAS - From basics of the game to capturing a provincial medal, the St. Thomas Express under-15 boys' team's growth was immense throughout their debut season.
The Express brought home the U15 division two tier one silver medal, from at the Ontario Volleyball Association championships, at RIM Park.
"This is a team that only started 18 months ago with a few boys who didn't know where to stand and could barely play the ball successfully three times in a row," Express coach Owen Lawrence said. "Now this small group of 15U boys from St. Thomas has played with some of the biggest and best programs from across Ontario and I am very proud of their development."
The Express didn't let their size, either player numbers, with only 12 coming out for tryouts, nor height, prevent them from learning the game and progressing forward.
"I was impressed by our willingness to play defense with intensity. As a group we can't control the net with size so we rely on intense defense in the backcourt and our team really made an effort the keep the ball off the floor," said Lawrence. "We focused all year on our competitiveness, staying focused during matches and tournaments and having the desire to play our best during every single point, regardless of the score."
In the OVA division two tier two gold medal final, Kingston edged St. Thomas, two games to one (19-25, 25-18, 15-13).
"I felt we controlled the entire first game winning 25-19. In the second game, they had a couple tough servers that gave us trouble and we couldn't claw ourselves out of an early deficit," recalled Lawrence. "The third game was back and forth the entire time and when we were serving up 13-12 I felt like we had some great momentum. Unfortunately that serve clipped the net and they were able to win the next two points and the match."
St. Thomas rallied to win their semifinal, against the Waterloo Tigers Black, after dropping the match opener.
"The boys played consistently during the match and never lost focus. We did make a couple of strategic adjustments," said Lawrence. "Our serving became very focused on getting the ball to a couple key areas within their serve receive, that made it difficult for the passers and therefore their setter to get the ball where he wanted. They were forced to return many more free balls then in game one which we converted to points. We kept the pressure on by passing well and running our offence."
The Express won one of three matches on day one of the three day tournament.
"We did not get off to a great start during day one (preliminary matches) dropping our first two matches," Lawrence said. "After the second match I challenged our whole group of players. This was a provincial championship that they had trained for since the beginning of October and they were not playing up to their potential. The team responded with six straight victories to make our way back to the finals."
St. Thomas defeated the Milton Edge, London Fire Blaze and Toronto Evolution, on day two.
In the quarterfinals, the Express took care of the Toronto Phoenix Eclipse, in two straight games, winning 25-22, 25-15.