A pair of rare losses last month served as a catalyst for the Force Volleyball Club as they were crowned national champions over the weekend.
The 18U club volleyball program had gone nearly four years between losses with their last defeat coming in the 14U Canadian national club championship volleyball.
But at the club provincial championships last month, the team lost once in pool play and then again for the gold medal at the hands of their Langley rivals, the Fraser Valley Volleyball Club.
“I think losing was pretty motivating for us,” said Ryan Hofer, who coaches Force alongside Dan Johnson.
“In the last two weeks, going into the national championships, those were the best practices I have seen in our gym.”
“At the time, it hurt a lot,” admitted Johnson. “But it was nice that it wasn’t the last game of the year for them. I think they saw it as a blessing as a chance to finish off strong. They didn’t want that feeling again.”
“Winning provincials and winning nationals were both huge goals we had on our agenda,” he added.
“We didn’t do one, but that’s OK because nationals was our bigger goal.”
Force and the FVVC were in Saskatoon over the weekend for the 18U club national championships at the Henk Ryus Soccer Centre.
Both teams were unbeaten in the preliminary round and Force went 3-0 in power pool play while FVVC was 2-1.
The teams then found themselves on the opposite side of the draw for the playoff round.
FVVC lost in the round of 16 to Ontario’s Pakmen Gold to end their championship dreams.
In the quarter-finals, Force drew Canucks Dinos and lost the first set of the best-of-three match 25-15.
“They (Canuck Dinos) smoked us the first set, it wasn’t even close; I thought we were done,” Hofer said about the quarter-finals.
“The guys just refused to give up, they just kept fighting and battling away.”
They won 25-19 to stay alive and the third set 15-9.
They won the semifinal round 2-0 over FOG Black and drew Pakmen Gold — the team which beat their Langley rivals — in the gold medal match.
And again, the Force lost the first set, 25-15, before rallying to stay alive with a 25-21 win. The third set went the distance and Force prevailed 16-14.
“Our guys were just able to fight back and adjust and come back to win,” Johnson said. “It was quite a ride, a lot of fun.”
“We weren’t the most physical team there — we didn’t jump the highest — but this team has incredible control and composure,” Hofer said.
“In so many games we were down and these guys would not give up. They are resilient and they can fight.”
“We wanted them to leave this tournament with no regrets … and we wanted them to play free and fearless — that was our phrase for the weekend,” he added.
Brodie Hofer was named most valuable player while Zechariah Johnson and Phil Stahl earned all-star honours.
The team is made up of players from Langley, Abbotsford and Surrey.