The Muskies were handed a lesson in what it takes to win at the senior level at the eighth-annual FFHS/A&W junior and senior boys’ volleyball tournament here last week.
After the black-and-gold swept Rainy River 15-6 and 15-12, then bounced Ignace by identical 15-11 scores to open the eight-team, pre-season tourney, they looked to be well on their way to an impressive showing.
But then the Muskies were trounced 15-3 and 15-5 by Whitefish Bay to wrap up pool play in second place, and were swept by both Atikokan (in the semi-finals) and Dryden (in the consolation final) to finish out of the medals.
Whitefish Bay, which had swept Dryden in their semi-final showdown, later captured the tourney with an exciting 15-13, 13-15 and 15-11 win over Atikokan.
Muskie head coach Rick Wiedenhoeft said his squad was competitive in both playoff matchups until “about the seven-, eight- or nine-point mark," when they fell behind and simply "got down on themselves.”
Wiedenhoeft added his team will have to play with intensity from start to finish if they expect to beat teams like Whitefish Bay.
“Our guys are going to have to learn that games aren’t over until 15 points," the veteran head coach stressed. ”We need to work on our emotional play.
“We had a lot of unemotional play and volleyball is a game of emotion that turns into adrenaline, which you need in this game,” he noted.
Wiedenhoeft admitted some of that lack of emotion may be attributed to the fact the Muskies have several younger players in the lineup who aren’t accustomed to playing at the senior level.
But he added that intensity had better surface if his team expects to become a “championship volleyball team” this season.
He said he’ll be looking towards some of his veterans, like setter Jason Jones and power hitter Chris Wiedenhoeft, both members of the region’s under-17 squad the past two years, to provide that much-needed leadership.
“I was pleased with our work ethic; the kids worked hard but we didn’t have the enthusiasm and we didn’t have the discipline,” he added.
Wiedenhoeft also said his team was guilty of having too many “unforced errors" as a result of "poor passes, serving and choices” on the court. In fact, the Muskies were often guilty of hurting themselves rather than getting beat by their opponents.
“We have to keep the ball in play,” he said matter-of-factly.
But Wiedenhoeft did call the play of the younger Wiedenhoeft, from the power position, and the defence from 6’5" middle blocker John Ottertail, as the bright spots last week.
And he said the pre-season tournament was a good chance for his team to gain valuable playing experience before opening the NorWOSSA campaign here Sept. 25 against the Kenora Broncos.