Jonathan Phillips came home with a silver medal around his neck.
Phillips was the only Saskatchewan athlete on the Team Canada U21 junior men’s volleyball team.
Canada defeated the United States in the semi-final at the NORCECA Continental Championships in El Salvador on Monday.
“It was a big roller coaster. The sets were back and forth,” said Phillips. “We definitely showed how good a team we were in the second set when we beat them 25-14. It was crazy to beat them and it was a big rivalry and we knew that we had to beat them to get to the world championships next year.”
Canada won in five sets (23-25; 25-14; 20-25; 25-22; 15-9) to advance to the gold medal match against Cuba.
In the final match, Canada fought hard, but fell in three close sets (27-29; 21-25; 21-25) to Cuba.
“There were tons of people out at the final game, which was nice because the fans were just there to watch volleyball,” said Phillips. “They weren’t cheering for anyone. It was a cool atmosphere.”
Phillips was a serving sub and came in for defence throughout the tournament. He was pleased with his performance and was excited to see where he fared against other high level players in his age bracket.
“I thought I did very well. The coach told me I did well. It was definitely a step up from Moose Jaw high school volleyball and even the college level,” he stated. “I am happy to be given this opportunity and play in every set at key moments. I definitely handled the pressure well.”
Last year, Phillips red-shirted at Briercrest College and Seminary as a freshman, but is looking for a larger role with the team this season.
“I definitely feel like I could start there, but the competition is very good,” Phillips said. “Two my best friends are competing for the liberio role, so it is going to be some fun competition between us. I know that the coach will put the best player on the floor. I am looking forward to the challenge of going for that spot.”
He did practice full time with the Clippers team last year and that helped him grow as a person and player.
“Sometimes I have been my own worst enemy in the past and letting my emotions take over,” he said. “This (program) has helped and it paid off this summer.”
Playing at such a high level like nationals was also beneficial for the Moose Jaw native and he hopes to bring back some of his new skills to Briercrest.
“I definitely gained a lot of confidence in my passing ability and digging. I am just going to bring more knowledge of the game,” he said. “I realized how important every position is on the team. I just want to be a supporter of all the guys. I want to bring that mentality to the team.”
Phillips and the rest of the men’s volleyball team at Briercrest will report to camp at the end of the month.
In the round robin, Canada knocked off St. Lucia 3-0 and Puerto Rico 3-2. The tournament had the top volleyball nations from around the North America, Central Americana and the Caribbean.
With the second place finish, Canada qualified for the 2015 FIVB World Junior Championship.