By DAVID WINER
Mississauga Pakmen officials were ecstatic with the club’s medal sweep at the OVA 18U Ontario Beach Championships August 6-7 at Toronto’s Ashbridges Bay.
Unfortunately, with the second- and third-place finishers being as proud and talented as they are, winning a silver medal, as Jordan Pereira and Tomas Sorra did, or a bronze medal, earned by Pranshu Patel and Harnoor Grewal, only served as reminders that they didn’t win the gold.
Instead, that honor was shared by Pakmen’s Xander Ketrzynski and Toronto’s Jack McBain, who teamed up to defeat Pereira and Sorra in the final, 21-13, 21-19.
“I was really impressed to see five out of six Pakmen players on the podium for 18U,” commented Pakmen beach head coach Jessy Satti. “I watched all weekend and there was some fantastic volleyball. They did a great job representing the club.”
Ketrzynski and McBain, both 16 and playing up two age groups, reached the final with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-15) win over Patel and Grewal in the semi-finals, and a 2-1 (17-21, 21-17, 15-3) decision over eventual fourth-place finishers Nico Duke and Mitchell Neuert of Leaside in the quarters.
“The podium finish seemed to be right in my opinion,” added Satti. “It was an interesting summer with most of the boys playing indoor volleyball, (so) a lot of them hadn’t had much formal beach training this summer. Any of those three teams could have come out on top, so the results seem pretty accurate.”
Asked what separated Ketrzynski and McBain from their Pakmen challengers, Satti said that there was very little.
“I watched them play all weekend and they were definitely a physical team,” summarized Satti on the winners. “They had a strong presence at the net with solid blocking and effective attacking.”
According to Ketrzynski, “What makes Jack and I a successful team is probably the fact that we have been playing together for around four years.”
The 6-foot-9 Ketrzynski, who will enter Grade 11 at Toronto’s York Mills Collegiate in the fall, added that he and the 6-foot-4 McBain seemed to find an extra gear in the quarter-finals.
“The team that gave us the most trouble was Neuert and Duke,” said Ketrzynski. “Everything really started to click in the third set against (them) when we came out, after a shaky start, and beat them 15-3 in the third.”
Ketrzynski and McBain, who doesn’t play indoor volleyball, but instead excels in hockey having starred for Don Mills Flyers and became a first-round pick of the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts earlier this summer, let it be known that their jubilation for winning was met with some relief as well.
That’s because Xander’s brother Cole held all the family bragging rights after winning the Provincial 15U title the previous week along with teammate Peter Rugosi.
“(It’s) definitely (a relief) for me and for Jack because his sister also won 18U gold the same weekend,” said Xander. “(Although) I don’t think (my other brother) Trent brought home a medal because he wasn’t very enthusiastic after the tournament.”
All three brothers initially took up volleyball because of their dad Alex’s involvement in the sport. Alex, a member of the Pakmen’s coaching staff, was a member of Team Canada at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. He was also a member of the Junior Men’s team that won the first-ever gold medal for Canada in a sanctioned international tournament, the 1978 NORCECA Junior Championships in Mexico.
“(Dad’s success) is what started (my interest in volleyball), but now I just really enjoy the sport,” said Xander.
Pereira and Sorra reached the championship final with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-14) victory over Adam Child and Chris Dorsey of Toronto in their semi-final, and a 2-0 (21-3, 21-6) decision over Anthony DeGirolamo and Logan House in the quarters.
Meanwhile, Patel and Grewal had beaten Justin Lui and Mathew Ganzhorn 2-0 (21-18, 22-24) in their quarter-final confrontation.
“Pranshu and I lost in the semis to a bigger team,” explained Grewal, who along with Patel, stands 6-foot-1. “It was (also) our first time playing together since 14U Grade 8.
“(But,) it was easy to play with him,” added Grewal, who will be attending Grade 12 at Mississauga Secondary School in the fall, “because he is my close friend and we are both left handed, which threw teams off a bit.”