Pitted against the very best of the best in the province, the Northern Chill 15U Avalanche Girls arrived at their competitive goal much earlier than anticipated, leaving this temporary stop with a greater appreciation of what it takes to stay on top.
Participating in the OVA (Ontario Volleyball Association) Premier nine team grouping for the very first time last month in Burlington, the Chill would leave with an 0-8 mark, confident they could compete, but understanding that there is plenty of work to be done.
Facing the defending provincial and national champs in their opening encounter, the Chill dropped a 12-25, 13-25 decision to the Scarborough Synergy - Nitro, rounding out pool play with a 9-25, 14-25 setback at the hands of the Storm Tsunami from Aurora.
"The little mistakes that we make, they don't," noted Chill assistant coach Kurtis VanWallegham. "Those girls know they are the best, and their game play reflects it. It's a belief that smaller market teams like Sudbury must learn."
Drawing a difficult cross-over match against the top seeded team in Pool "B", the Sudbury crew fell 10-25, 18-25 to the MVC Vesuvius from Hamilton and closed off their weekend, beaten 25-20, 25-16 by the Smash Raiders Junior HP, also from Hamilton.
"This tournament sent a clear message to these girls that they belong," said VanWallegham. "In order for any Sudbury team to compete at that level, they must first be taught the game properly, with fundamentals and technique."
"But that's not enough. They must also learn the "game within the game". This includes the cerebral component: thinking, anticipation, reading, visual cues, etc.., but most importantly for young athletes, it's the psychological and emotional challenge of learning how to win, the whole mental aspect of the game."
"We are super excited about this group, as (head coach) Denny (Chicoine) and I have been working with them since the beginning of last year, with the goal of one day competing for a national championship," added VanWallegham.
"They are actually ahead of schedule."
The 2019-2020 edition of the Northern Chill 15U Avalanche Girls included Gabrielle Comeau, Michelle Scratch, Ashley Ruddick, Siobhan Noble-Poland, Kayla Bouffard, Hannah Crane, Allison Nordquist, Alexie Chicoine, Kameryn VanWallegham and Sydney Jokinen.