The year keeps getting better, and better for Peterson and Kowara

By DAVID WINER
Tristan Peterson and Annette Kowara aren’t in a rush to usher in the new year.
It’s not that the teenagers aren’t looking forward to the future, quite the contrary, it’s just not going to be easy to improve on, or even duplicate, their accomplishments over the past 12 months.
Last summer the Mississauga Pakmen volleyball stars celebrated winning the U15 Canadian Beach Volleyball Championships. Come fall and winter, there was more fanfare as their U16 squad won both the U16 and U17 Ontario indoor championships. Then, just a couple weeks ago, there was more gold claimed when Peterson and Kowara won the U16 Ontario Beach Championships at Toronto’s Ashbridge’s Bay.
“This calendar year has definitely been the best year of volleyball I’ve played so far,” said Kowara. “All the accomplishments have been really special for me because they have been firsts for me in many ways. By firsts I’m referring to the championships. I’ve never won any championships until this year.”
“I think I would summarize this calendar year as extremely challenging and rewarding,” said Kowara’ teammate Peterson. “I never looked ahead at the big picture, but I took everything step by step, which made it a lot easier to handle. I know my team and I during the indoor season always took it one game at a time. We tackled each challenge one by one and never got ahead of ourselves, which I think was the main reason for our success.”
As for the present, Peterson and Kowara entered the U16 Beach finals seeded sixth. However, the competition soon realized the dynamic duo was a major threat winning all three of their matches in pool play, before sweeping away the opposition on Sunday. Beginning with a victory over Vanessa Roscoe and Josie Heeney of Halton Region and Forest City respectively in the quarters, they followed that up with a win over Iris Fletcher and Rachael Grove of Forest City and Durham Region in the semis, and Chloe Biel and Britney Looijie of Toronto’s Phoenix and Aurora Storm in the final.
“Our secret was our determination and ability to fight back after losing the first set in both the quarter finals and semi finals,” said the 5-foot-11 Kowara. “We practiced the week before provincials, which helped a lot with our skills. We knew it was going to be tough to win, which turned out to be true in the quarter finals when we won 19-17 in the third set.”
And with Peterson away with the Ontario all-stars in Edmonton and Whistler for close to a month, it meant little time for the beach combo to compete and practice together.
“I think what made us so successful was our ability to persevere and overcome challenges,” said the 6-foot Peterson. “Due to me being away with the indoor provincial team, we only played one tournament in June and practiced twice in the week before Provincials.
“Since many of our opponents had been playing together all season, our games were difficult,” added Peterson. “But we stuck together and fought through every challenge we were faced with. My partner Annette had been playing all summer with various partners, so her defense and beach knowledge was strong. She was reading plays and defending really well, as well as being able to side out when she needed to. I believe passing was my biggest strength, especially on the second day of the tournament as well as communicating effectively.”
After a summer of different and unfamiliar partners, Kowara was excited to have her familiar partner standing beside her again. A teammate she shared bronze medals with at last year’s U15 and U16 provincials, along with the National gold.
“Tristan and I have been friends and teammates since 14U, which makes Tristan different from the other partners I’ve played with this season,” said Kowara. “Tristan and I always encouraged each other and gave helpful tips to improve our game,” offered Kowara. “Tristan especially helped me out with the calls she gave me about where to hit the ball.”
Which totally befits their personalities.
“Tristan and I have similar personalities, but I am much quieter than her. Thanks to Tristan’s outgoing personality, she was able to stand up to the refs when they made poor calls.”
Peterson, 15, who will be attending Grade 11 at Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon in the fall, and Kowara, 16, who is off to Grade 11 at Etobicoke’s Michael Power, are now looking forward to some extra practices before the Nationals.
“Our success at Nationals last year I think was mainly because of how well Annette and I work together. We complement each others strengths and support each other every time we play. At Nationals last year, it was evident how well we came together and were able to fight through the challenge of playing some of the best athletes in Canada,” said Peterson.
A second straight Canadian title would certainly be a fine way to cap off a year to remember.