Pakmen thrive under the soaring sun at U14 beach championships

 

By DAVID WINER

Last week’s soaring temperatures had authorities issuing a heat advisory.

Another caution could have been declared to avoid all contact with the red-hot Mississauga Pakmen at Toronto’s Ashbridges Bay during the boys’ U14 Ontario Beach Volleyball Championships.

The Pakmen not only won gold, they nearly pulled off a sweep winning gold and bronze medals in the 24-team field.

Perhaps the highlight of the tournament was the semi-final match pitting Peter Rugosi and Mark Dildar against fellow Pakmen Talha Kaholan and Sebastien Martin Demers.

Rugosi and Dildar eventually prevailed and went on to defeat brothers Cole and Trent Ketrzynski from Toronto Patriots in the final.

Demers and Kahloan rebounded to defeat C. Irwin and Craig Therkildsen of Aurora Storm for the bronze medal.

“We thought we had a good chance of winning if we played our best,” said the 14-year-old Rugosi, who will attend Grade 9 at Etobicoke’s Bishop Allen Academy in the fall.

Entering the tournament as the No. 2 seeds despite winning the U13 title last year, Rugosi and Dildar won all five of their matches without dropping a set.

Rugosi attributed the team’s success against, “A strong team and very skilled competitors,” in the Ketrzynskis to a variety of reasons.

“Great communication between Mark and I; training four days a week with great coaches Jessy (Satti), Phil (Rodrigues), Lennard (Krapp) and Karim (Khalil); and time out coaching by my dad, Franco, who suggested different winning strategies against each of our opponents.”

“I think we’re successful because Peter is great on defense and he will chase after every ball,” added Dildar. “He’s also good at placing his hits, while I think that my skills are my blocking and hitting.”

Next for Rugosi and Dildar are the Nationals August 21-23 for which, “Mark and I will be training harder than ever so that we can win for us and Pakmen.”

More gold certainly wouldn’t surprise Satti, who said the Ontario results, “Are not surprising. Peter and Mark have been at the top of the 14u division the entire season.”

While bronze might appear slightly muted next to gold, there was no mistaking the golden smiles Demers and Kahloan displayed after a hard-fought third-place finish.

This is the first year of beach competition for both 14-year-olds, although the two trained all of last season for this opportunity.

“Being our first year of beach we knew our ranking would be low because we didn’t have points from last season,” explained Kahloan. “We entered the tournament ranked seventh, but we thought we could use that to our advantage. Not many teams knew about us and we were thought of as the underdogs.

“Mark and Peter were ranked second and we thought that was strange because they are the best and that was proven after this past provincials,” added Kahloan. “We knew if we faced them it would be an amazing match, and in all honesty if we played our best, we could have beaten them.”

Kahloan and Demers certainly knew the winning tandem better than anyone.

“We trained alongside Mark and Peter the entire season and it helped us a lot,” said Kahloan. “They were always a challenge and it made us work harder in practices and in drills. Training with them gave us an opportunity to play the best team in Ontario and we learned a lot from practicing with them.

“One match I would like to have happen again is the semi-final against Mark and Peter,” added Kahloan. “Our first set against them wasn’t so good and I’d like to have the opportunity to face them in a pressure situation again.”

Kahloan and Demers may get that opportunity before the summer is over.

One thing the two teams have in common in their admiration for the club’s coaches.

“Jessy’s coaching was phenomenal,” said Kahloan. “He always pushed us to be the best we could be, and without him, we wouldn’t be the team we are today. He, along with a few other coaches really helped us and we are extremely lucky to have been coached by them. Jessy’s style was amazing. He knew all of our weaknesses and helped us minimize mistakes. Meanwhile, Lennard was also a big help in our beach season.”

And the coaches have a lot of strengths to work with when it comes to the novice beach tandem of Kahloan and Demers.

“Many things help Seb and I become successful (as a team),” said Kahloan. “The key is he’s a left handed player and I’m a right hander. Opposing teams are always getting confused on how we hit and where. They have trouble reading us. Seb is also a lot taller than me, maybe 4 inches, but that’s why he blocks and I play back row. He is tall and I’m small and fast so that really helps us. It’s good he plays at the net because he’s the better setter and I’m a smarter attacker so it works out perfectly.

“I’m the loud one in the group,” added the David Leeder Middle School graduate, who will be attending Mississauga Secondary. “But when either of us gets down, the other always knows just what to do and say to bring him back in the game.”

“I think what makes Talha and I a successful team is the ability to keep cool and shake off unforced errors as well as we do,” said Demers. “We learned some of those skills during our indoor season from our coach Kelly Smith. But it all really played out when we only had each other to rely on.

“We both have that sixth sense with each other,” added the Erin Centre Middle School grad, who will attend Streetsville Secondary. “The one that notices when the other person is a bit off his game, and we always manage to snap each other back into regular play by being more vocal and encouraging.”

That’s why Sebastien and Talha sought each other out for the beach season.

“We’ve had good chemistry since the 13U indoor season,” said Demers. “We figured that with our all around combined skills we could become real competitors over the summer with hard training.”

Especially when they have the opportunity to compare their play and skills against the gold medalists.

“It’s clear that Peter and Mark are quite experienced at their game,” said Demers. “I’ve learned from them and I would like to think that they’ve learned some from us. They make me bring my game to another level both during training and competition.”

Satti has been impressed with the “dedication and work ethic” of both teams all summer.

“These four guys haven’t missed many practices this summer,” said Satti. “They show up on time and they work incredibly hard.

“Both pairs have been consistent all summer, training against each other and working hard,” added Satti. “There’s no surprise that they ended up standing on the podium together.”