We were in Hamilton at McMaster University for the AA gold medal match on Saturday, November 27th.
2nd ranked Eden HS squared up against a feisty 7th ranked Walkerville team, coming from South Western Ontario. Though the teams looked like a mismatch, the story on the court was written differently.
(2) Eden HS v. (7) Walkerville
AA OFSAA Gold Medal Match
To say this looked like a mismatch is an understatement. Eden looked to have more depth, a better warm-up, a more professional coach, more professional jerseys, a higher rank, and they hadn't lost a set all tournament. In fact, they hadn't given up even 20 points.
But Walkerville brought the fans. A loud, supportive crowd can provide a powerful intangible, and Walkerville sure came with heart.
As the set began, Eden looked dominant. They ran out to a 5 - 1 lead early, with that 1 point being lost on a missed serve. After a timeout from Walkerville at 7-2, the momentum began to turn. Walkerville based its team around strategic defensive substitutions, using two subs along with a libero. Once their outside blocking warmed up, highlighted by 6 Ryan Taylor at middle, the game began to look more competitive. The score pulled to 15-12, forcing Eden to take their first time out.
The game remained relatively close, with Eden working their sets to a range of attackers, and Walkerville essentially only setting 8 Yousef Zaid on the left-side. A diverse strategy proved the proper one, and Eden took set number 1, 25-20.
The second set told a very similar story. Blocking from Walkerville's middle kept Eden's powerful left-side players at bay, while they pushed the majority of sets out to Zaid consistently. Eden looked to adapt by pushing more and more sets out to their right side attacker, 2 Brandon Wiens. Walkerville's strong blocking turned out to be largely based on blocking the opposite side of the court. Their left-side hitters didn't have the blocking to slow Eden's right-side attack. In the end, even though 4 Calvin Fast hit harder, and 17 Elijah Lopez hit with better technique, right-side Wiens led Eden with 12 points when all was said and done. He could have had more, but he often chose the bizarre strategy of jumping and volleying instead of attacking. This happened at least 5 times over the course of the match. Again, the diverse attack proved, as it should logically, the better strategy and Eden took the 2nd set 25-20 to go ahead 2 - 0.
The third set was highly competitive and entertaining. The story was similar, but with their backs to the wall, Walkerville's heart began to factor in stronger. They continually set their power hitter, Zaid, who began literally screaming at the top of his lungs after every point, swearing after ever loss, and eventually earned warnings from the referee for his unprofessional conduct. But the momentum was on their side, and the fans continued to feed Zaid with a chant they'd made for him ("You-You-You-You...SEF", which was done enough that it deserved mention). Zaid finished with 19 kills, an incredible number that led all players. Along with his juicy couture knee socks and a superficial bandana, it made an impartial observer tend to cheer against the underdog.
The set continued neck and neck until 23-23, even 24-24. The points began to be fought for tooth-and-nail. One point saw 5 contested jousts at the net. Another a long rally based on hits. Every time Eden would take the lead, giving another match point. Each time, Walkerville fought back. At 27-26 Eden, finally the set, match, and OFSAA was put away. Lopez drove one through the block for his 6th kill and last point of AA OFSAA.
Congratulations to AA OFSAA Champions Eden HS, for winning OFSAA without losing a set. An impressive feat.