All-Pakmen Girls’ 17U Championship Final Sets RIM Park Buzzing

 

It’s 4:30 pm on Sunday, 19th April, at Rim Park in Waterloo. A weary Durham Attack player winds her way through the thinning crowds at the Ontario Volleyball Championships. “An all-Pakmen 17U girls’ final,” she sighs to an accompanying friend, “what’s with that?”

 

“That” was the final that set RIM Park abuzz. The dominant 17U Pakmen Gold girls’ team, number one seeds, and winner of two Premier Division tournaments and the Grand Prix this year, versus the fourth seeds who stopped them sweeping the division – Pakmen 16U. Of course, the 16U girls are no slouches themselves, capping their undefeated 16U season last weekend by winning the 16U Ontario Championships, and claiming a 17U Premier Division tournament by defeating – you guessed it – Pakmen Gold.

 

The 16Us had cleared their path to the final by finishing top of their pool on day one, placing them in the same power pool as Pakmen Gold. In day two, Pakmen Gold went to three sets against Markham Revolution and the Aurora Storm 16Us. Pakmen 16U had taken care of both teams in two, showing their resilience by coming back from a 19-24 deficit against Markham. Then, in the final game of the day, the 16Us had beaten the Gold girls in two sets, sending them to the other side of the draw for the knock-out round, and to the same side as Durham Attack, the hard-charging number two seeds.

 

As finals day began, Pakmen Gold were a team on a mission. They demolished the Ottawa Mavericks 25-4 in the first set, then 25-20 in the second. It was on to the semis, where the ever-dangerous Durham awaited. In a see-saw battle, Gold lost the first set 20-25 to a jubilant Durham. They fought back to claim the second 26-24, and, as the score swung to and fro, they took the third 15-12. Durham were despondent, and the top seeds were still in it.

 

Over on the next court, the 16Us had fought hard themselves. Although they’d defeated Phoenix Legacy in straight sets in the first match of the day, they’d had a slow start. Early in the game, Phoenix were ahead by 9 points before the 16Us rallied and moved in front to win the set. In the semis, LVC Fire – another hard-hitting 16U team – had taken them to the brink in three. Pakmen won the first 25-23. LVC claimed the second 19-25, but the Pakmen 16U girls rallied once again, taking the third 15-12. It was exactly the same third-set score as Pakmen Gold’s.

 

So the stage was set for the Championship finals. The two teams had played each other four times, and split the wins: Pakmen Gold 2, Pakmen 16U, 2. Now, they were playing for the title of 17U Ontario Champions. The heirs-apparent versus the young pretenders. You could forgive the all-star littered Pakmen Gold team for being confident. This time, the young upstarts might just have to content themselves with silver. But there was a problem. The 16U girls had forgotten to read the script.

 

The opening set is over in a blur. A flurry of aces, kills, digs, and blocks, and suddenly, the 16Us are up a set. They take the first by a stunning 25-15. Pakmen Gold are reeling, but they are the number one seeds for a reason. They respond in kind, out-hitting the younger girls and taking the second by – would you believe it? – almost the same score as the first:16-25. Two games each, one set each, and a tie-breaker to decide it all.

 

As the third set begins, Pakmen Gold take first blood and seize the first two points. But Pakmen 16U are a team who have come back time and time again, always embracing the belief that they will win in the end. It comes from their coach. It comes from their chemistry. It comes from their hard work. By the tie-breaker cross-over, they are ahead 8-6 and the momentum has shifted. They can taste victory. To the roars of the crowd, they go on to triumph 15-10. They’d done it. The Pakmen 16U girls had won the both the 17U and 16U Ontario Volleyball Championships. Double Champions.

 

And as a hush settles over RIM Park this morning, somewhere in a high school in Mississauga, or Etobicoke, or Georgetown, or Caledon, or Toronto, you’ll see one of those Pakmen 16Us. A grade ten girl called Julia, or Tristan, or Lucy, or Alicia, or Caitlin, or Annette, or Madison, or Angela, or Beth. She might look a little tired. She might have a taped wrist, or hand, or arm. Or a swollen knee. Or a sore shoulder. She might be walking slightly stiffly. But if you look a little closer – and you’ll have to look carefully – you’ll see a spring in her step.