Pakmen bid adios to Puerto Rico
By David Winer
Even the most finicky judge would award Mississauga Pakmen the stamp of good house keeping after sweeping away the competition at the Can Am volleyball tournament in Rochester, New York on Jan. 17-18.
The u-17 Pakmen needed the minimum 14 games to claim the title against 30 Canadian and American challengers, culminating in a win over San Juan in the final. The 25-17, 25-18 victory over the Puerto Rican side avenged a loss in last year’s title bout.
Prior to the gold medal match, Pakmen defeated Eden Mizuno of Eden, NY in the semi-finals, 25-18, 25-20, and MAC from Mississauga in the quarter-finals, 25-20, 25-14.
The Pakmen began their first big indoor tournament of the season by beating OVC Black from Virginia Beach, 25-13, 25-14, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Club Lehigh, 25-22, 25-23, the Desperados from Ottawa, 25-15, 25-14, and Sportime from Long Island, 25-15, 25-8.
The sweep even caught left side Sharone Vernon-Evans off guard. “Yes, I was pretty surprised,” said the Agincourt Collegiate student. “Even though we played well all weekend, I thought it would be a lot tougher than it was. Pretty shocking really.” Vernon-Evans credits the leadership of head coach Orest Stankos and assistant Phillip Rodrigues for much of the success. “The coaching has improved to the point it’s elevated our game. Overall, the team has improved a lot.” Couple the “huge advantage with coaching and determination from the guys and it became our turn to beat (San Juan) this year.”
The towering 6-foot-7 Vernon-Evans added that Lehigh and Eden were the toughest teams to overcome entering the final. With this, the team’s third tournament of the season, Vernon-Evans added, “We’ve been playing great all year. With our chemistry, it doesn’t surprise me. “We focus hard on chemistry and we’re eager to bond together. We trust and rely on each other.” Vernon-Evans adds new additions Jonathan Reid, Jak Paterson, Tomas Sorra and Liam Butchereit, “have added to our arsenal.”
Other team members are, captain Parvir Jhajj, Jordan Figueira, Alex Reiner, Tucker Johnson, Andrew Simon, Joel Lillycrop and Malcolm Prentice. Assistant Rodrigues headed up the team in Stankos’ absence.
Pakmen’s u-16 squad came within a match of duplicating the u-17 team’s feat. All that got in the way of gold, was the hosting Rochester Pace Bootleggers, who defeated the Pakmen 25-17, 25-22.
Pakmen defeated Eden Mizuno 25-18, 26-28, 16-14 in the semi-finals and Blast 16 Megatron, 25-18, 21-25, 15-7 in the quarters. Previously, the Pakmen beat Annapolis 2-0, Toronto’s Galaxy Solars 2-0, the Longhorns 2-1 and RVC, 2-0.
The Rochester event was one of two bid tournaments taking place on the weekend, with the other event, the Boys Winter Championships, taking place at the McCormick Place in Chicago. They were two of nine seeding events being held throughout the season to help determine qualifiers for the 2015 USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior National Championships. While the Pakmen qualified, they forfeited their bid, since the USA championships take place after the indoor season.