Cobras prepare for trip to volleyball nationals

  • Sports   Friday, May 13, 2022   Matthew Harris
The Stratford Cobras U15 boys volleyball team has its bags packed and is headed west, joining 51 other teams at the nationals in Edmonton, Alberta, later in May.

The Stratford Cobras U15 boys volleyball team has its bags packed and is headed west, joining 51 other teams at the nationals in Edmonton, Alberta, later in May.

From turmoil comes the opportunity for improvement – something the Stratford Cobras U15 boys volleyball team is taking to heart.

After an impressive season that saw the boys ranked fifth heading into their provincial tournament, the Cobras hit a roadblock on their way to the title when they lost to a lower-ranked Pakmen Black Lam squad in straight sets 25-20 and 25-21. Instead of competing for the provincial title, the U15 boys headed home to figure out what went wrong.

Camilo Chacon Sandoval, the Cobras’ head coach, said the playoff loss to Pakmen was a bit jarring for the team but he hopes they can use it as fuel for their fire. Their season hasn’t finished yet, as the Cobras head to Edmonton later this month to take part in the national championships. They’ll just one of five teams from Ontario there vying for the title, and Sandoval is hoping to see his team put the lessons they learned the hard way to good use.

“At provincials, the team was ranked fifth in the tournament going into the final day of playoffs but we lost to a lower-ranked squad – we have taken this experience and are letting it fuel us going into the nationals in Alberta. We’ve done a lot of goal-setting and mental strength exercises over the past few months to really help us be focused and prepared for nationals.”

Like everyone else, the Cobras have had to deal with irregularities that come with playing and training during a pandemic. Sandoval said they have maintained a relatively normal schedule whenever possible, and said the team has made the best of its opportunity.

“The team understood that our time was limited because of the pandemic and as in the previous year, our season could be interrupted at any moment,” he said. “The boys kept this in the back of their minds every practice, game and tournament we had. The drive and desire to get better from each athlete is what helped the coaching staff prepare for the season and get positive results in multiple tournaments throughout the season.”

Added to that, the Cobras are a bit of a mixed bag with a combination of 14-and-15-year-olds on the roster. That hasn’t been a huge issue, as Sandoval said the team came together because they all agreed on what they wanted out of the season: a shot at the gold.

“They came together because they understood what the end goal was,” the coach said. “Not having a competitive season last year allowed us to continue to develop and work together to become a strong, cohesive team. The drive and motivation the athletes had all season helped them to be successful. In the 2020 season, we didn’t have any competition and our season was interrupted a few times – having this in the back of our minds and knowing this season could be taken away from us at any moment, we knew we had to make the best of every minute we spent on court.”

With that being said, the nationals now stare them in the face. With 52 teams competing in the tournament (May 19-21), it will take all their resources for the Cobras to reach their ultimate golden goal. All Sandoval wants to see is max effort so the team can come home knowing they gave every ounce of effort they could.

“The goal for nationals is to come out with a positive result and build momentum into next season. We’ve won gold medals as well as been upset in the quarter-finals of different tournaments, so we have been on both sides of the coin when it comes to results,” he said. “We will be taking all the experience from this season and leveraging it to come out with the best possible result at nationals, leaving it all on the court in Edmonton.”