by Dylan Short
The Northwest Territories captured its first ulu in men’s volleyball in more than a decade at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games.
The junior mens volleyball team representing the NWT placed second overall at the 2018 AWG, a performance that marks the first time a mens volleyball team from the territories has placed in the top three since at least 2008.
Gems Pro, the database the AWG uses to store all of its official results from past games, dates back as far as the 2008 games, held in Yellowknife. Information from that database shows the best previous result for a men’s team was fourth place, a fact that head coach Darren Horn said may have actually affected the boy’s mentality going into the final against Alberta North.
“Today I think it was a little bit of the idea that NWT hadn’t won a medal in a long time,” said Horn. “We were happy with what we got, it’s just frustrating right now because (Alberta is) a beatable team.”
The team needed to overcome a deficit of being down two sets to none in their semi-final match against Team Yukon before they were able to pull out a 3-2 win and secure their place in the gold medal final. The team had lost to Yukon previously in the tournament.
“We started off against Yukon and we knew that we were going to play them again after that loss and that’s kind of what we played towards,” Horn said.
While the team wasn’t able to finish the tournament on a winning note, Horn believes that the silver ulu could be a sign of things to come for mens volleyball in the territory.
“When we had the Arctic Winter Games territorials and we were preparing for it, we had one court booked. I was told I would be lucky if I had twenty guys showing up and we had 76, so there is definitely the interest there,” he said.
Isaac Simon, a senior member of the team, believes there were glimpses of that future displayed by his team, including stand out performances by individual players.
“One of the guys on our team, (Chris Mathisen), he’s super good,” Simon said.
“He’s probably going to be the best volleyball player the NWT has ever produced.” While it seems like high praise from Isaac, having a 14-year-old starter on an under-19 team is definitely a good sign that NWT volleyball is in good hands going forward.