A seventh place finish, in a field of nine teams, does not come close to telling the story of the Northern Chill 12U Arctic Blast girls, competing for the final time, this year, back on March 7th at the Bugarski Cup in Barrie.
Despite finishing third in their morning pool, the locals came within a whisker of pulling off a huge quarter-final upset. The mere fact that no less than three of their sets extended beyond the standard 25-point finish would speak volumes about the competitiveness of the youngest of the Chill teams.
"It doesn't bother me if we are not winning tournaments now," said head coach Warren Frantz. "I want to see them in the future, when they're U16, U17, U18 - that's when I want them picking up their medals, that's when I want them playing in championship division."
The signs of the potential that lies within were apparent out of the gate, as the Arctic Blast overcame an opening set 10-25 loss to the top-seeded Barrie Elites - Lightning, pushing their opponents to the brink in a 26-28 setback in game two.
A three set loss to Vision Volleyball from North Bay (18-25, 25-23, 11-15) would leave the Sudbury girls with the unenviable task of facing the #1 team in Pool C. In a quarter-final match that could not have been much closer, the Orillia Suns - Galaxy outlasted the Chill 28-26, 20-25, 15-10, denying the locals a surprise final four berth.
With little rest between games, the 12U crew swept past the North Bay Lakers - Blue (25-12, 25-15), before bowing out, again, in three sets, to Vision Volleyball for a second time (24-26, 25-17, 14-16).
"We wanted to work on our defensive system, just a little bit of shifting yourself in the right position for whatever angle the ball is coming at us from the other side," noted coach Frantz. "They are showing signs of understanding that."
Beyond the collective improvement, there were clear-cut signs of individual breakthroughs:Danika Bouffard - "she really took it upon herself to show some leadership on the court - lots of confidence on her offense, with timely hits - her serving was right there all day"
Sixing Cathy Qin - "she's always been technically sound, smooth like butter - her passing is unbelievable - she really wants to be a libero, but she has shown a lot of improvement on her setting"
Maili Jutila - "started a little slow in the morning, but by the time we were playing in the playoffs, she was someone to count on - she really found her groove, got herself on a roll and was finding her spots"
Rounding out the Northern Chill Arctic Blast roster are Brooklyn Melanson, Avery Gauvreau, Grace Bourget, Avery Egers, Salma Ibrahim, Isabelle Renaud, Alyssa Amadio, Addison Benedict, Hailey Ayre, assistant coach Kevin Bouffard, and co-managers Nick and Lisa Ayre.