Skip to content

Nunavut takes on the country at Volleyball Canada Youth Nationals

The world is getting back to some kind of normal and that means more regular sport travel can happen again.
Team Zueike, as they were known, was the name for both the boys and girls teams from Nunavut at the Volleyball Canada Youth Nationals U18 division in Edmonton earlier this month. The boys team was, front row from left, Dillon Barrieau, Carter Poinek, Tashinga Chakonza, Joshua Shappa, Clifford Saittuq and head coach Brady Fischer; back row from left, assistant coach John Legate, Gholam Darehshoripour, Luke Cornthwaite, Thomas Porter, Evan Kyak, Lane Onalik, Alex Palongayak, Daniel Niptanatiak and Bryan Salvador, Zueike Clothing co-owner. Zueike is a supplier for Volleyball Nunavut and was the inspiration behind the name. Photo courtesy of Volleyball Nunavut

The world is getting back to some kind of normal and that means more regular sport travel can happen again.

For the first time in more than two years, volleyball teams got the chance to hit the road and take on some of the best from around Canada.

The territory had a boys and girls team compete in the 18U age group of the Volleyball Canada Youth Nationals earlier this month. For the boys, it was a historic trip as they became the first boys team from Nunavut to take to the court at a national championship and they got off on the right foot when their tournament opened up on May 22

Brady Fischer, head coach of the boys team, said he felt they were really excited yet nervous to begin.

“We had good leadership from our experienced players to help us stay calm and help some of the newer players settle in,” he said.

Playing in Division 2, their opening game was against EKVC out of Alberta where they would emerge victorious in straight sets, 2-0, to add to the history books by becoming the first boys team from Nunavut to win a match at the youth nationals.

They dropped their next two matches to Tiger 18U out of Nova Scotia and Cascades from B.C. to finish the round-robin with a record of one win and two losses.

From there, the boys moved on to what’s known as the power pools the following day, which determines where teams will end up for the playoff round. There, they would take on Park Elite Black of Alberta, Leaside Warriors of Ontario and Pakmen Black Aleks out of Manitoba. They wouldn’t win any of those matches, though they did take Pakmen to three sets. That meant the boys would play in Tier 4 of the playoff round.

And that’s where they found their groove.

They began the playoffs with a 2-0 win over the JVC Chargers of Alberta in the round of 16 and advance to the quarter-finals. Following that was another meeting with EKVC and the boys turned the trick again, beating them for a second time, 2-0, to move into the semifinals and a rematch with Pakmen. But that’s as far as they could go as Pakmen beat the boys in straight sets, ending what was a rather impressive run for Nunavut.

“I think they were getting used to each other after the power pools,” said Fischer. “I think we were more appropriately placed in the right tier to be able to compete.”

Fischer admitted he didn’t know what to expect going into the tournament as the boys hadn’t had much of a chance to play together, or even on their own, for the better part of the last two years.

“It was hard to predict the level of success we might have at this tournament,” he said. “I expected there to be some court rust, but we had a fairly intense training program in Kelowna (B.C.) one week prior to the tournament, so that helped the boys get into form.”

The girls were in the same boat as the boys in that they didn’t see any sort of action at home or abroad for more than two years. And just like the boys, they took on the best of Division 2 in their 18U tournament and started in the preliminary round with three games of their own versus Velocity of Alberta, Capers West of Nova Scotia and Canuck 17/18 from Alberta, a game in which the girls took the opening set, 25-23, but ended up losing in three sets.

That didn’t faze head coach Bev Netusil one bit — she said the matches were tough but the girls kept on fighting

“I (kept) reminding them that these teams have been playing for months now! We started a week ago and we’re able to take a set! That’s awesome!,” she said on Facebook following day one of play.

It would be off to the power pools on day two and the ladies faced off with Spartans of New Brunswick, Team United from Ontario and Velocity Black from B.C. Like day one, they wouldn’t find the win column but Netusil was still very upbeat.

“We fought very hard and focused on small goals and playing within our limits,” she said. “It’s so hard to keep fighting knowing you are the underdog but they did not give up on one point.”

May 24 was playoff day and the ladies would enter Tier 4 and a quarter-final date with Niagara Rapids Synergy from Ontario. Niagara would win it in straight sets, ending the run for the girls but they went out swinging, said Netusil.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these girls,” she said. “So many spectators who commented on how much fun it was to watch them play. We played hard, learned lots, we’re going to work extra hard to get in even better shape so we are ready to fight at Canada (Summer) Games.”

The Games in August in Ontario are the next big goal for both teams and Fischer said there is the potential to have a summer camp in June in addition to a one-week camp in Ontario just before the Games begin.

“The goal is to really provide an enjoyable and enriching experience for these athletes,” he said. “We want these kids to talk about volleyball in their communities in hopes to increase participation and draw athletes in to the sport.”

About the Author: James McCarthy

I'm the managing editor with NNSL Media and have been so since 2022.
Read more