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  • Loree Rayback

Bridging the Net: Volleyball Players Make Friends Amid Competition

U18F volleyball started the day off strong with an 8:00 a.m. game in the Nuutah 2 (Palmer Junior Middle School) volleyball court. After several long volleys, the Alberta North girls defeated the Northwest Territories girls 50 to 31. Players on both teams strategized in the first and second sets. They hustled, at times following the ball all the way into the sidelines on a skid. Some hard hitting, upbeat, and energetic ladies make up both of these fabulous teams.

Khaylle Sarte and her Team Nunavut teammates sat on the bleachers in the Nuutah 2 - PJMS gym. They were there to observe their competition after playing for Nunavut against Alaska . Khaylle Sarte reported, “We lost, but it was a good game. It was our first match so we were everywhere. But we built more confidence and got comfortable once we were on the court for a while. This is my second year and also my last year [playing for the Arctic Winter Games],” Khaylle emphasized. “Making friends is a big part of AWG”. She turned to teammate Kyana Idlout and asked her what she had learned. Kyana said “[it’s important] not to overthink a game, to have fun, and to play hard!” Khaylle added “This is a place to come together and learn new things about other cultures.”

The spectators of the 9:30 a.m. U18F game between Yukon and Alberta North were celebratory, erupting in cheers, clapping, and shaking loud wooden noisemakers in response to the game's action. The scores were close as the game began, but after narrowly winning the first set, Alberta North changed tactics. They began gently tipping the ball into open spots on Yukon’s court. They did this more than once, after feigning a hard spike in the other direction. This strategy proved successful and won the game for Alberta North 40 to 20.

The U18M Team Nunavut arrived as a group. Dustin Martin relayed, “Our first game is at 1:30 versus Alaska. This is my first year playing volleyball and my first Arctic Winter Games. I’ve enjoyed bonding with my team, having fun, and playing against new players that I haven’t played before.” Nearby, teammate Tashinga Chakonza joined in: “I’ve been playing 5 years, this is my 2nd AWG. Last year I went out for basketball, this year for volleyball. I’ve learned from competing at the AWG that kids my age are the same, even when they’re from somewhere else.””

The first couple players for Team Alaska arrived early. Avei Turaifale has been playing volleyball for 5 years. “This is my freshman year,” said Avei, “and my first Arctic Winter Games.” He shared that it has been surprising to see that people from other teams care for him and show him the same respect he has back home. “I thought it would be awkward. We’re from all different parts of the world. But, I’ve learned we’re not much different. We’re all just kids trying to have fun and play the game.” His teammate, Pasala Ioane joined in: “I’ve been playing Volleyball since 6th grade, so 5 years. This is my first AWG. I’ve learned about teamwork and the support you get from your peers. I haven’t played yet, but I will soon. I’m pumped, excited, waiting!”

After a full day of volleyball, Team Alaska and Team Alberta North lead the female teams with 3 wins each; Team Yukon is in the lead for males with three wins, followed closely by Team Alaska and Alberta North. The competition continues through the week with final medal rounds Friday evening. Stay tuned!


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