A volleyball team from Hay River has made an impact at Senior Spike It!, the territorial championships in Yellowknife.
The under-15 boys team from Diamond Jenness Secondary School walked away from the Nov. 4 to 6 competition with a first-place banner.
“We finished number one,” said Kelvin Yee, who is in his second year as head coach of the team.
To claim the Tier 1 banner, they beat Chief Jimmy Bruneau School of Behchoko.
The gold medal match was a best-of-five, and Diamond Jenness won three games to zero.
The boys’ banner-winning performance – with a six win and one loss record in a division with five teams – is all the more impressive considering three weeks earlier they didn’t win a game and lost four at the Lawrie Hobart Memorial Tournament in Fort Smith.
Yee said the difference between the two tournaments was a lot of hard work by the players.
“I knew the kids were capable of playing well,” he said, explaining it was just a matter of fine-tuning all those skills and getting them to work as a team.
Yee also said it’s rare for a team from Hay River to win a first-place banner, noting the last one claimed by an under-15 boys team was in 2009.
“I’m proud of the boys. They played really well,” he said. “To go up to Yellowknife with that kind of pressure, coming from 0-4 in Smith to that kind of pressure and that kind of gamesmanship. They were phenomenal.”
Yee said his players were excited to go to Spike It!, despite their record in Fort Smith.
“And at the end of it, they believed in the system and we won,” he said.
Yee said some of the other coaches in Yellowknife were astounded by how much the team had improved from Fort Smith, and he just explained they started to believe in the system.
Zack Horton, the team captain, said the performance in Yellowknife was just amazing.
“It’s rare that a DJ team wins a Double A banner in volleyball,” he said. “I just thought our team played really well and everybody stepped up and did their part to help meet our goal.”
However, he also said the team was kind of surprised that they were even in the finals considering how they played in the previous tournament in Fort Smith.
“We changed systems from a four-two to a five-one,” he explained. “So we had some more hitters on the court. We just had that extra time to practise and it made all the difference.”
A four-two system involves two setters on the court, while a five-one system is when a team only has one setter. Setters are players who get the second hit and set up other players to hit the ball over the net.
“So it’s a lot more movement but you can have more people to receive and more people to hit the ball,” said Horton.
Horton, who is 15 years old, will be playing with the Diamond Jenness 19-and-under volleyball team next year along with some of his current teammates.
However, they will still have the same coach.
“Actually, I’m going to move up with them to the under-19,” said Yee.
That is not the usual process, but he explained that he and the current coach of the under-19 team have decided to rotate their coaching duties every two years.
Horton hopes that arrangement means more success in the next few years for the current U-15 players.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think Mr. Yee is an awesome coach and it will be awesome to have him as a coach for the under-19 team.”
The senior school volleyball championships featured teams from Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, Fort Good Hope, Behchoko, Ndilo and Fort Smith doing battle on the court for the eight banners up for grabs.
Sir John Franklin High School of Yellowknife won four banners, the most of any team in the tournament, while St. Pat’s High School of Yellowknife, Diamond Jenness Secondary School, Chief Jimmy Bruneau School and East Three Secondary of Inuvik each won one banner.
–Paul Bickford with files from James McCarthy