Pakmen close out the summer with six medals at Canadian Beach finals

By DAVID WINER

It’s been said, that you can’t win them all.

That doesn’t stop the Mississauga Pakmen from trying.

The Pakmen gobbled up six medals at the Canadian Beach Volleyball Championships at Toronto’s Ashbridge’s Bay over the weekend.

Included in the haul were one-two sweeps in the U16 and U18 men’s finals.

Harnoor Grewal and Jordan Baric out-dueled club mates Pranshu Patel and Michael Kong in the U16 final 21-11, 21-18. They were almost joined on the podium by fellow Pakmen Navreet Suhan and Deman Dulat, who lost a tough bronze medal final to brothers Alexandre and Maxime Denis of Ottawa, 21-19, 21-17.

The U18 final was also decided in two sets as Parvir Jhajj and Sharone Vernon-Evans teamed to defeat Andrew Kos and Sahil Punni 22-20, 21-12.

The remainder of the medals were collected by Saad Shaikh ad Avy Bath in U15 men’s action and Annette Kowara and Tristan Peterson in U16 ladies’ play.

Basking in all the glory were Pakmen coaches Jessy Satti, Karim Khalil and Leonard Krapp, who could sit back and relax with the full knowledge their jobs were done for the summer.

“As a coach, these are the best games to watch,” divulged Satti. “It’s one of the only times during the tournament where you get to watch the game as a fan and as a spectator and not as a coach. It didn’t matter to me which team won, the fact that both (the U16 and U18 men’s finals) were from Pakmen was incredibly satisfying.”

In the U16 final, added Satti, both Harnoor/Jordan and Michael/Pranshu, “played amazing. I was really proud of those guys. Both teams wanted to win badly.”

Grewal and Baric had earlier in the semi-finals defeated Suhan and Dulat 21-18, 21-18, while Patel and Kong dropped the St. Denis brothers 21-18, 21-13.

In the quarter-finals, Grewal and Baric had knocked off the Manitoba tandem of Mathieu Lavoie and Darian Picklyk, 21-15, 21-12, while Patel and Kong bested Quebec’s Zacharie St-Georges and Guillaume Rivest, 21-16, 21-14.

Grewal and Baric, who finished the championships with an 8-1 record, are no strangers to success on the beach circuit this summer.

They climbed up a couple of age groups to place second to Jhajj and Vernon-Evans in the U18 Ontario Beach championships and enjoyed a successful couple weeks of action in California, where they won two tournaments, the Manhattan Beach Open and the Huntington State Open, before returning three days prior to the Nationals.

“I feel as if winning this weekend was easier then coming second two years up, just because everyone we played this weekend was our age,” said the 6-foot-3 Baric. “But since this tournament was nationals and the last one was provincials, the stakes were higher for us to win.”

Grewal chimed in, “winning gold felt much better than winning silver because this was Nationals.”

Both Grewal, who will attend Mississauga Secondary and Baric, who will go to Iona, are in unison when explaining their success; coaching and a camaraderie.

“Me and Jordan are like brothers,” said Grewal. “We have great chemistry and we are great friends on and off the court. When we get mad, we bounce back fast and still pull through to win the match. Mentally it is hard to break us down because we are close and know how to bounce back when we are down.”

“It’s pretty special because we keep each other grounded,” added Baric. “Recently, whenever one of us is down and not playing well, we stay calm and just keep pushing as a team, which I think was a huge part in our success this weekend.”

And as for the club’s leadership?

“The coaching this summer was amazing,” exclaimed Baric. “Jessy is up there with the best coaches I’ve ever had in any sport. And he can always relate to us because, back in his day, he used to play in the same tournaments and he’s not that much older than us. I still look up to him a lot and think he’s a great coach and he did amazing throughout the whole summer and was a big part in our success. Also Leonard (Krapp) came to most of our practices and really taught us the dynamic, technical part of the game. Having those two was a blessing!”

Baric and Grewal will now turn their attention to the indoor season.

“I feel that it’s not too hard for me to transition back into indoor,” said Baric. “I’m excited that it’s coming soon, I feel that we’re gonna do really well this year and I’m looking forward to it.”

Baric added, “The sky is the limit,” for their U17 Pakmen squad this fall and winter.

18U MEN

With Pakmen comprising an all U18 final as well, coach Satti’s only hope was that both teams would bring their ‘A’ games to the gold medal match, and he, along with the fans, were not disappointed.

“When you have two teams from the same club play against each other, you can only hope that the game is competitive and that they bring the best out of each other, and that was definitely the case between these two teams.

“It was an intense match between Sharone/Parvir and Sahil/Andrew,” continued Satti. “It was amazing to see. I see these guys practice against each other regularly, but this time, the level of intensity was much higher.”

Jhajj and Vernon-Evans had earlier defeated Jordan Pereira and Taryq Sani 28-26, 23-21 in an exciting semi-final, and G. Sidhu and G. Engelman 21-10, 21-16 in the quarters.

Meanwhile, Kos and Punni had it in for Aurora Storm competitors, defeating Nick Trewern and Mitchell Law-Heese 25-27, 21-10, 17-15 in the semi-finals, while tripping up Oliver Hissink and Nolan Langley 21-15, 21-19 in the quarters.

Despite having already won three Provincial and two National Beach championships together, winning never seems to get tiring for the 6-foot-9 Vernon-Evans and the 6-foot-1 Singh.

“This was a huge win for us because we have dreamed of winning 18U Provincials and Nationals and now it is a reality,” said Agincourt’s Vernon-Evans. “It is the best feeling in the world!”

“We had to work extremely hard for it,” chimed in Singh, who will enter Grade 12 at Mississauga Secondary this year. “And that’s what made the gold medal all the more rewarding. We had a poor upset performance to Sani and Pereira in the Youth Open semi finals (earlier this summer), and this was our comeback from it.

“And we lost to Taryq and Jordan two straight, 21-17 and 21-13 (at the same tournament earlier in August). It was just a poor performance for us all around, so we really needed to step it up at Nationals.”

And step it up they did, winning all 10 of their matches.

With this, their fourth summer together as partners, the forge between Vernon-Evans and Singh has continued to strengthen.

“Me and Parvir’s relationship clicks because we are best friends,” explained Vernon-Evans. “We trust each other, and it makes us able to know where we are mentally and physically.”

“When you play with someone for so long and constantly train together, it builds a bond,” added Singh. “Me and Sharone are best friends off the court. He’s like a brother to me, and that’s a good relationship to have when creating a partnership, because it makes us click. I idolize him and respect his style of play.”

15U MEN

Shaikh and Bath fell just short of making it a golden sweep for Pakmen in men’s U15, U16 and U18 action.

Taking on M. Ganzhorn and J. McBain in the final, the Pakmen duo lost 21-18, 21-16.

“I was really proud of Saad and Avy,” said Satti. “They played their best volleyball of the summer at Nationals. It may not have been the result that they wanted, but they both developed so much as players.”

16U LADIES

Kowara and Peterson came within a couple points of reaching the gold medal match, losing to eventual champions Iris Fletcher of Forest City and Rachael Grove of Durham in the semi-finals, 17-21, 21-19, 13-15.

Kowara and Peterson did rebound to capture the bronze with a 22-20, 21-15 victory over Calgary’s Renae Lapins and Kenzie Vaandering.

“In reality, the difference between losing and winning that semi-final came down to who the better team was that day,” said the 16-year-old Peterson matter of factly. “Annette and I were having a great tournament, playing well and communicating better than ever before. Having played Iris and Rachael in the semi-final of 16U Provincials, and winning in a tight third set, we knew that this semi was nothing to take lightly. I believe Annette and I played our hardest and never gave up, but in the end it came down to who brought the better play that day. Having lost 13-15 in the third set, I truly believe Annette and I played some of our best volleyball, but on that given day, Iris and Rachael were the better team.”

And having played some of their best volleyball of the summer, Peterson said there was little chance of a letdown in the bronze medal match, even if the thought crept in to their mindsets initially.

“Having to play a bronze medal match, is one of the hardest games to play in my opinion,” said the 6-foot Peterson. “We were disappointed with our semi final loss, but had to pull it together, and compete for a medal. I’m extremely proud to say we were able to do that.”

Peterson did admit that she and Kowara did feel under the microscope entering the weekend’s action.

“Definitely, I think there was concern of a letdown,” said Peterson. “Having won 15U Nationals last year, and winning 16U Provincials (this year), we felt some pressure.

“Although,” added Peterson, “we knew that if we played our absolute best, and never gave up, no matter what the outcome, we couldn’t be upset. It was a disappointment of course, but when you play some of your best volleyball and stick together as a team, there is no way that we felt like a letdown.”

Peterson and Kowara, who are looking forward to playing Pakmen volleyball this indoor season, may have been initially disappointed in not cashing in on another gold, but are nevertheless thrilled to have made the podium.

“We are extremely happy to medal at Nationals,” said the 15-year-old Peterson, who will attend Caledon’s Mayfield Secondary School. “Although at the time gold may have seemed like everything, looking back at how much of an accomplishment third in Canada is, it makes me extremely proud. Annette and I got to stand on the podium with some of the best 16U female athletes in Canada, and we got to say we were a part of that small group. Many athletes don’t ever get to experience that.”