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It’s volleyball heaven in Lloyd

By August 25, 2022No Comments
Team Saskatchewan coaches (l-r) Cory Gratton (Lloydminster), Joel Dyck, Sean McKay and Jordan Nowakowski are all smiles after leading the team to a gold medal at the Canada Summer Games in Niagara this past Sunday. Supplied Photo

 

Volleyballs keep bouncing the right way for Lloydminster coach Cory Gratton lately.

He and University of Saskatchewan coach, Jordan Nowakowski, helped Team Saskatchewan men’s U19 volleyball win gold at the Canada Summer Games on Aug. 21 and are instructing local youngsters on what it takes to win this week.

The second annual Momentum Volleyball Camp gets underway Thursday at the Servus Sports Centre, and Gratton hopes Team Saskatchewan’s overall success will inspire players to reach for the top.

“I really want to see, in our community, more young athletes get involved in high performance and go through the provincial team process and play for Canada Games teams or play post-secondary,” said Gratton, who is an assistant coach with Team Saskatchewan.

The Momentum camp, with Nowakowski onboard, runs until Aug. 28 followed by programs for Grades 4-9 students in September and October then tryouts for winter club teams.

The high school Barons just held a three-day camp this week at College Park School and the Lakeland Rustlers are holding their camp Aug. 26-29 as the sport continues to grow in popularity.

“There’s just tons of opportunities for young players to get better,” said Gratton.

He says years ago, when he started playing and coaching, volleyball was a two-month sport and you couldn’t get athletes to commit to anything out of those two months.

Gratton thinks it’s wonderful now that there’s opportunities for those kids who really enjoy the sport to be able to play or train year-round.

“I’m just excited about the numbers in general and the kids that are coming out just to participate and have fun, but it’s nice to get more involved in the high-performance end as well,” he added.

Gratton says Team Saskatchewan was ecstatic to win gold in a three-sets-to-one final over Alberta at the Games held in Niagara Ont.

“There were about six very solid teams there competing for a gold medal at the Canada Games and it really could have gone to any one of them,” said Gratton.

“We were fortunate to peak at the right time and we were able to keep our momentum going through the tournament.” 

Team Saskatchewan went into the Games after winning the nationals in July by also defeating Alberta in the finals in straight sets.

“So going to Canada Summer Games really put a target on our back and teams got up to play us making it that much harder and that much sweeter at the end,” said Gratton.

The team lost their first game to Alberta that was out for revenge.

“They were absolutely ready for us,” said Gratton. “They came out quite strong and we came out quite flat and they beat us in four sets.”

“Then we regrouped after that and continued through the round robin undefeated.”

Coaches don’t receive a medal at the Games, but the team’s win redeems the missed chances Gratton had to compete as a player years ago by being aged out during two Games cycles.

The team’s gold medal performance is a feather in his cap as one of the four coaches.

“I coached my first team in ‘97 or ‘98, so it’s been a long time. I know how hard it is to have success at that level and how long it can take. It made it that much sweeter for me,” said Gratton.

“I’ve been a part of a lot of volleyball teams over the last 25 years or so and this group was pretty special, the way they supported one another.”