Pakmen bask in beach glory at Nationals

  • January 26, 2024


It was just another day at the beach for members of the Pakmen Volleyball Club.

Other than the pomp and circumstance associated with the annual Beach Nationals at Toronto’s Ashbridge’s Bay, Pakmen did what they usually do–dominate and win.
It made little difference that the country’s best players were in attendance vying for glory.

Before long, it became abundantly clear to those witnessing the spectacle, this was the unofficial coronation of Pakmen as Canada’s best beach volleyball club.
Pakmen wore out the path to the podium, winning four gold medals on the men’s side and one in the women’s classification. Pakmen also came away with four silver medals and three bronze performances.

With success still fresh in their minds, partners Misha Panasiouk and Aleksa Rakic, the 15U champions in Toronto, packed their bags and flew west to Vancouver the next week to win the 16U Nationals.

“It was a perfect way to end the season,” said Pakmen head coach Jessy Satti. “We maintained our same level of success right to the end. It’s hard for teams to play their best at Nationals after a long, drawn out summer, because there’s so many tournaments leading up to it. So, for our athletes to have peaked and played their best at Nationals is definitely something to be proud of!

“As a coach we always have to be confident in our potential for success,” added Satti. “And we had a strong feeling after Provincials that we could find similar success at Nationals. But in the moment, when it all happens, (this amount of success) still feels like a surprise.”

Asked if any of the matches surprised him, Satti said coaches must anticipate every challenge in advance.

“There were no surprises that the kids and coaching staff weren’t prepared for,” he said. “At Nationals there are always strong teams from out of province that we haven’t seen before. So there were a couple of close matches that could have gone in any direction, but our teams pulled it off at the end.”

One match that grabbed all the Pakmen coaches’ attention was the 17U boys’ final. Pakmen’s Wil Basilio and Parker Ocampo were out for revenge after losing to club rivals Chris Tautrims 1 and Brecken Morrison at the Provincials.

And the older pairing of Basilio and Ocampo did manage to turn the tables this time around.

“It was an amazing match,” said Satti. “It was competitive throughout, going to a third set. At that point the coaches got to be spectators and really enjoying the match itself. To us they were all Pakmen athletes so the outcome didn’t matter as long as both teams played to their potential. Both teams are so skilled so it became like a tactical chess match. That’s why the scores were close.”

Ocampo attempted to describe the feelings running through his and Basilio’s minds entering the gold medal match after losing the previous week.

“I wouldn’t say it was nerves and anxiety, but more along the lines of excitement knowing we would get another chance to play them and perform better than our first meeting, confidently knowing it would be a different outcome,” explained Ocampo. “We knew we didn’t play our best the first time around, as we were flat and disconnected, not to take away from Breck and Chris’s performance, as they played very well. It was only our second tournament together at provincials due to injury and other indoor volleyball commitments, so getting back to the way we were was going to take time.

“The loss at Provincials was tough,” continued Ocampo, “not because we lost to Breck and Chris, but because we didn’t show up that game. We felt we played poorly, and vowed Nationals were going to be different.

“We went back to the basics, building a game plan around each others’ strengths. And, most importantly, trusting what we learned from training with Pakmen.”

With Basilio’s superlative blocking and Ocampo’s standout defense “we know what our responsibilities are and we trust each other’s abilities explicitly.”

Personally, the 6-foot-1 student at Oakville’s T.A. Blakelock “practiced breath work and started a guided meditation before games to keep me focused and relaxed.”

After the celebration is over and Ocampo and Basilio are back on the ground, the duo will attend Volleyball Canada’s National Excellence Program later this month and rejoin Pakmen 18U Gold team in December.

Taurims took the loss in stride admitting, “the other team was good and we just made a few more errors than we maybe wanted to in the final.”

Still, Taurims and Morrison managed to make back-to-back gold medal matches in a memorable beach season.

“I think we started the season with inconsistent play, but we were pretty good by the end of the season.”

That included the Nationals where Taurims explained, “we were challenged in days two and three, but were able to push through it.”

Along with the gold and silver medals captured by Pakmen in 17U boys’ play, teammates Tian Harcevic and Tyler Gibson just missed out on achieving a sweep, finishing fourth.

Pakmen just missed out on another near sweep in 14U play with Jordan Low-Ring and Cameron Gibson winning gold, Robbie Whitelock and Devan Tarrant earning the silver, and Alex Hum and his partner capturing fourth place.

Low-Ring and Gibson rarely worked up a sweat at Provincials dodging any three-game matches. While the competition was tougher at Nationals, the duo found ways to escape harm.

“We had three matches extended to three sets,” said Low-Ring. “However, we felt it wasn’t the competition, but more Cameron and I playing poorly. But each time we fixed things and were able to finish strong.”

Low-Ring also took great pride in the club’s showing in his age group.

“I would definitely say it shows Pakmen’s player depth,” he said. “In previous tournaments it often came down to Pakmen teams eliminating other Pakmen duos. But, because of the extended competition from other provinces it opened the door for Pakmen teams to play other teams instead of teammates.”

All in all, it was an immensely successful summer for Low-Ring. But, he wouldn’t go as far as calling it a dream summer.

“For me personally, this season was amazing,” said Low-Ring. “I played in six 14U regular season tournaments with five different partners, and I was able to win each of them. Then, with Cam, I won Provincials and Nationals. I ended up playing the entire season without losing a single game. I was also able to compete among the best players in the 15U age category coming second in all three regular season 15U tournaments. However, I don’t really think it’s a dream come true. Pakmen sets expectations at the start of the season of winning Provincials and Nationals. We were the expected team to win. So, I would say it was more of a goal we had to work towards, instead of a dream.”

Other Pakmen teams who achieved their goals at Nationals, include Spencer Ham and Davis Hinshelwood, who were second behind Panasiouk and Rakic in 15U boys, while Jonah Dolhun and Ryan Whiting placed fourth.

While Satti and his fellow coaches were enraptured by the 17U match pitting two Pakmen 3 teams against one another, fellow Pakmen coach Omar Abu Jazar was entertained and impressed by the feats of Panasiouk and Rakic, who finished the summer with four championships!

Abu Jazar had a front row seat for the matches in Spanish Banks East, BC and came away thoroughly impressed.

“Misha and Aleks both play on my indoor team and because of their attentiveness and determination of perfecting the skills I coach them, I wasn’t surprised when it translated to their domination of the podium in the beach season,” said Abu Jazar. “I commend Aleks and Misha for just that; they put in the work to not only understand the technicalities of the physical skills, but also the mental side of the sport. Even if they don’t like that particular skill, they know it serves to their benefit.

“It was phenomenal to watch the results of hard work,” praised Abu Jazar. “Here you have two athletes competing in a higher age group, perfecting the sport, minimizing their errors and maintaining their title on the other side of the country. To say their successes this season made me proud, is an understatement.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Dearing teamed with his partner to capture gold in men’s; Yahia Elsayed and his partner won silver in 16U boys and Quintin Greenidge and his partner placed third in 20U men.
On the girls’ side, Alyssa Flack and her partner won bronze in 16U; Adrianna Lonardi and Olivia Pasternak won bronze in 17U; and Emma Glagau and her partner came away champions in 20U.