From the start of the senior boys volleyball game, the East York Goliaths were missing something.
Though it was the game ball that was absent at first, retrieving the equipment didn’t solve their troubles.
In fact, it might have added to them.
The Northern Knights handed the Goliaths their fourth straight loss on Wednesday, taking them out in two sets, 25-19, 25-12. East York coach Andrew D’Angelo cited passing as his team’s biggest weakness.
“We’re starting to come together a little bit as a team but obviously there are some weak spots,” D’Angelo said. “Especially defensively with things like passing. I think that’s the major reason why we weren’t successful.”
East York started the first set with Nasir Mohamad serving up two shanks to Northern. The Knights got on track quickly and answered with eight straight points.
With more help from Mohamad, the Goliaths tied the game up, and then took a 16-13 lead on his serve. Knights coach Bruce Monick called a timeout to stop Mohamad’s momentum, shifting the game and set back in Northern’s direction.
The second set held much of the same, with the Knights taking an early lead. When it looked like the Goliaths might start to make a comeback, Monick used the timeout tactic again to his advantage.
With the shift of momentum in the direction of Northern, and some help from Billy Weigand’s four straight serves to finish the set, the Knights took match.
The catalysts for Northern’s run of success were middle attackers Reed Paterson and Alex Ardelean.
In the absence of having a good power hitter, the Knights have triumphed in the middle and even on the weak side. Monick thinks they just need to play the way they have been as the team works on their other positions.
“They are our best and most consistent hitters so we’re trying to make sure that they stay that way for now as we develop the outside,” the Northern coach said. “Most teams have good power hitters, but we’ve developed our middle and our right.”
Though Paterson doesn’t play volleyball outside of school, he has been working on his jump since he started Grade 9, and he has come naturally into the middle position.
“I like middle,” Paterson said. “I’m good at it and I’m tall so it fits.”
His father noted on the sidelines that his son’s outburst of height in the last couple of years has helped the younger Paterson, who has most recently been working on his quick attacks.
“I’m just trying to swing through,” Paterson said. “That’s the key really. Just swing hard.”
His hits were the key to the game for the Knights, many of them going unanswered by East York, much to the chagrin of their coach.
“Anybody who knows anything about volleyball wants to hit and wants to attack,” D’Angelo said. “Nobody thinks that passing is important.”
The Goliaths also had trouble returning Northern’s serve, becoming enough of a problem for D’Angelo to call timeouts on multiple occasions in order to try and turn the tables.
“Definitely to stop the momentum,” D’Angelo said of why he called the timeouts. “Sometimes just to talk to especially the young guys about what to do in that situation.
“Volleyball is a ruthless sport. You can get down six, seven, eight, nine, 10 in a row and it gets to your head.”
Not only was D’Angelo protecting the psyche of his players, but he was trying to get into the heads of the opposing team.
“It’s a tactic to throw off servers for sure,” East York’s coach said. “It didn’t work today but you’ve got to try whatever you’ve got to try right?”
Paterson was one of Northern’s successful servers not bothered by D’Angelo’s method.
“Absolutely not,” Paterson said of the strategy. “As a player I know that’s happening and I know he’s just trying to psych me out. But it doesn’t affect me anymore after a few years of playing.”
Though the approach didn’t work for East York, Monick had success with it, getting his team back in gear after his timeouts.
“We have a tendency to go flat,” The Knights coach said of why he called his timeouts. “When we go flat all of a sudden the momentum shifts and they just dig a big hole for themselves. I’ve got to remind them to play like they’re capable of playing.
“Once they’re reminded of that, they go back out there and they tend to be a little bit more with it.”