“Finishing our season with a victory felt really great,” said Ms. Wiltenburg, the Junior Boys Volleyball coach. MGCI’s Junior Boys Volleyball Team played their final game on 31 October 2018 against Central Toronto Academy. They finished their season after winning two games and losing four.

The team consisted of fifteen players in Grades 9 and 10, over half of whom joined the team this year. Team Captain Joshua Xiao commented on how this affected the team:  “I think it took them a bit of time to get comfortable with the rest of the team, but we created an environment that would be welcoming to the new players. We had a lot of people on the team with experience from last year who could help the newer players.”

Marc Garneau’s Junior Boys Volleyball Team. Image: Evan Woo

Joshua also said that getting to know the other players was an important part of his experience. “The most memorable part was the bus rides and getting to know everyone more. Especially the people that I don’t see every day,” he commented. “There are a lot of my friends on the team but I feel like by being part of volleyball you can travel and get to know more people, not only your friends in your class but also people that you don’t see every day at MGCI.”

David Walji, who was new to the team this year, said that he joined after hearing about the team from his friends who had played previously. He said that he bonded with the other players over the season and added, “They helped us acclimatise by teaching the stretches, teaching us how to play, teaching us all the rules and that sort of stuff. I definitely felt welcomed as a new member.”

An important part of the team dynamic was the members’ enthusiasm and encouragement for one another. “The team spirit was definitely twenty-four/seven. We were probably the most positive and outgoing team that we saw,” said David.“We had the best bench, we were really loud and always cheering on the team that was playing. I think the mood and the atmosphere that we created was very positive.”

In addition to their six regular season games, the team also played at an invitational tournament at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute on 3 October 2018. There were eight teams in total, and the tournament consisted of four round-robin style games followed by playoff and final games, which gave all the players a chance to play. Because the games at an invitational tournament are just for fun, the coaches have a chance to try different line-ups and strategies. Grade 10 player Arthur Xu said that he thought the tournament was a good opportunity for the team to improve and added, “That’s the one ‘practice’ where you get a lot of gameplay with eye-level opponents. We were getting a lot of wins as well, so I guess it’s a confidence booster.”

The team played six regular season games. Image: Evan Woo

Due to the gym scheduling, the team was only able to practice one to two times each week. As many of the players did not have a lot of prior experience, the team faced some challenges. “Definitely communication was a challenge. At the beginning of the season, we kind of lacked communication and it led to a lot of points for the opponents, but we did improve on it,” said Joshua. “Another challenge was serving. We had a lot of missed serves under pressure. A lot of our sets were pretty close. There’s a lot of pressure when your opponent is a couple of points away from winning the set. I think sometimes we fell under pressure and misserved.”

Joshua further added, “I think that it can be both discouraging and encouraging when you’re playing against a really good team that hasn’t lost a game, and you only lose by 2 points. That encourages you and it makes you feel like you’re at a similar level to the top team in the division. Losing a really close set also has a negative impact on you because you feel like you could have won. You reflect and think back on what you did wrong and it could affect how you play in the next game.”

Throughout the season, the team was able to bond and improve on and off the court. “Their skills got better, their communication improved, and they really became a team over the course of the season,” noted Ms. Wiltenburg. “Their confidence in their ability to play volleyball was really obvious to me at our last game. I am very proud of how they improved their skill level and became a team.”