By Kavan Young
When the Ottawa Fusion’s 16U boys team arrived in Edmonton for the 2018 Volleyball Canada Nationals between May 17-23, they were expecting to be one of the top teams at the tournament and come away with a championship.
They were able to secure a championship, but it wasn’t the title they were hoping for.
They qualified for the most competitive division, Division 1, but after stumbling through the first day of games, they dropped down to its fourth and final tier.
Had the boys finished first or second through the preliminary round, they would have been able to play for Tier 1 or 2 but won just one of three games on the day, putting them in power pool play that ultimately landed them in Tier 4.
The power pools, which took place on day two, marked a forgettable day for the Fusion boys.
“That was probably our worst day of volleyball all year,” said Sébastien Delorme. “We didn’t win a single game. We won two sets and we definitely should have won the two games where we went to three, we just didn’t perform.”
After dropping all three games in the power pools, the Fusion dominated the Tier 4 championship round, winning all three games they played without losing a set.
Delorme, the 16-year-old middle, was one of the Fusion’s best players throughout the tournament but was still disappointed in the outcome because he believed in his team’s chances.
“We definitely could have been a top-tier team had we played better our first day. There were challenges within the games but there was no real big roadblock to us winning Tier 4 that day.”
Another player who had a strong showing at both provincials and nationals, according to head coach and technical director Jay Mooney, was Nathan Lang, the team’s other middle.
“Nate had strong provincial games, where Seb maybe didn’t peak at provincials,” said Mooney, “but at nationals they were both our key guys.”
Delorme agreed with his head coach.
“Yeah, he definitely did,” he said. “Nathan often comes up with very big blocks and that’s a huge momentum booster. He’s also a big threat from our serving line. He single-handedly served a couple teams off the court this season.”
Lang cited both his offensive and defensive consistency throughout the tournament as something his coach was happy with.
“A lot of our guys, they go up and down with how they’re playing. We track plus and minus and Seb and I, I think for that tournament, we were the only two that were in the positives,” said Lang.
Despite having a tough first two days and dropping down a few levels of competitiveness, the boys kept their heads high and rallied around each other to the make the best out of an unfortunate situation.
“It was definitely disappointing after day one and day two,” said Lang. “Day one we were so close, like four points from being in Tier 1 or 2. Then I think that affected how we played on day two; our heads weren’t in it. So it was disappointing on day three but I guess we just rallied around that.”
The boys shook off a demoralizing couple of days and left with the bonds they have with each other intact.
“The guys on my team, we’re a bunch of brothers at this point,” said Delorme. “When we’re together often, we’re talking about volleyball. We’re kind of crazy about the sport,” he said with a laugh.
Other teams with notable finishes included the Maverick Volleyball’s 15U girls, who won Division 1, Tier 4 gold, and Maverick Volleyball’s 17U boys, who placed 4th in Division 1, Tier 1.