The Vanier Spirits senior girls volleyball team is once again city champions in the Moose Jaw High School Athletic Association (MJHSAA) after a hard-fought three sets to two victory over the Peacock Toilers Tuesday night at Sask Polytech.
Vanier's last city championship was back in 2018.
It looked like the Spirits would have an easy time with the Toilers after winning the first set 25-9. But Peacock bounced back in the second set, taking it by a score 25-17. Vanier would take a two sets-to-one lead after a 25-20 win in the third, with Peacock once again rebounding with a 25-23 come-from-behind victory in the fourth set. Vanier took control early in the fifth and final set and went on to win the tie-breaker 15-8.
"It was intense, it was exciting," said Spirits head coach Aly Bell. "Peacock came to play. We weren't expecting any less from them. We had some ups and downs but eventually, we found it again and we came out on top which was awesome. Vanier hasn't won a city championship in a very long time. It's nice to put the school on the map again."
Bell revealed her mindset after her team dominated the first set.
"I thought we had it after the first set. We played really, really well. Like our season's been, we made a lot of errors in the second, third, and fourth set, but our girls have been really finding themselves and finding their own confidence and they put up a really good battle back. Peacock came out swinging and fighting too and eventually we just had to come out fighting a little bit harder than I think we thought we needed to."
The city championship was a fitting conclusion to the season for the Spirits, who went undefeated in league play. Bell noted it was the team's goal to win the city championship and regionals, which they did. Vanier, who is ranked number one in the province, will now compete in the SHSAA 4A provincial tournament as the host squad this coming weekend.
"I don't think we were expecting the success that we had but we worked super hard throughout the year," added Bell. "We practiced really hard. We focused a lot on our mental game because that was something we struggled with last year and just like the other teams, they put up a really good fight which makes us better and makes the quality of volleyball better. There's great coaches in the high school league, you can't really expect anything less."
Spirits captain Ava Gibbs, grade 12, was ecstatic following the final whistle.
"It feels amazing," she said. "It's such a nice relief knowing that we could take a win in my senior year."
Grade 11 player Waverley Demassi was also on cloud nine after celebrating with her teammates.
"It feels great because we've been working for this for a few years now, rebuilding our team, and our team mostly is made up of grade 12 so it feels great just winning it for them for their last year."
She gave us her mindset heading into provincials.
"Going into provincials, we're ranked number one in the province, but still there's lots of tough teams. I feel like this set the bar and it showed how strong we are and how much we can really play up to other team's levels as well."
For Peacock, the loss marked the end of a city championship streak that started back in 2019.
Toilers head coach Lorne Polupski was pleased with how his team performed.
"It was an amazing match. I loved it. This is how it should be. Two great competitive teams battling right to the end. We had five sets and it's great volleyball. I'm not upset with that at all. It's not about winning. It's about playing the best that you can play and we walked off the court doing that."
Polupski described the atmosphere inside the Sask Polytech gym as 'amazing'.
"There was 500 or 600 people in here. They were loud. I couldn't even hear myself in timeout, it was awesome. It was fantastic. Moose Jaw is a fantastic community and sports is the crop of it."
Overall, Polupski said it was a great season.
"We went from being average to being really good. That's what you want to do in a year. You want those kids to rise to the occasion. Every one of those girls worked their butts off tonight and they've got tons of heart and I love every one of them. They're amazing."
The 4A girls volleyball SHSAA provincial tournament gets underway on Friday at Vanier Collegiate and A.E. Peacock Collegiate. The Central Cyclones will be joining Vanier as the two representatives from Moose Jaw.
The senior boys volleyball city championship takes place tonight with Assiniboia facing Central starting at 7 p.m. at Sask Polytech.
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