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Vanier takes five-set win over Peacock to claim high school girls volleyball championship

Spirits take 25-9, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-8 win Tuesday night to claim first title since 2018

With the way things started in the Moose Jaw High Schools Athletic Association girls volleyball city championship on Tuesday evening, it looked like it was going to be a short night indeed.

Not only did the Vanier Spirits continue their recent winning streak with a commanding 25-9 win over the Peacock Toilers in the opening game, they made it look easy enough that a  sweep certainly seemed in the cards.

But you don’t come into a city final as the three-time defending champions without knowing how to stage a comeback, and that’s exactly what the Toilers did.

The end result was an absolute barnburner of a match that saw Vanier win their first girls title since 2018 thanks to a 25-9, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-8 victory in front of a raucous crowd at the Sask Polytech gym.

“That was so good, we just wanted to win so much,” said Vanier senior Ava Gibbs, one of eight Grade 12s in the Spirits line-up. “After three years of not winning and doing what we wanted to do, we finally got what we wanted and pushed through everything. It was a really great experience and a great win.”

While getting off to the fast start was nice, Gibbs felt the way her crew responded to adversity was equally as important, especially with the Toilers repeatedly finding ways to get back into the match.

“Once we won that first set, I was thinking ‘great, we got off to a good start’ but after the second set we had to pick it up, we couldn’t just think we were going to take it easy,” Gibbs said. “Once they started picking up we decided it was go time and we were going to get the win.”

That was no more apparent than the final set, as the Spirits roared out to an 11-3 lead and even with Peacock’s push to make things interesting over the final few points, held on for the victory.

Spirits head coach Aly Bell was most proud of her team’s mental game and their ability to find a way to pick themselves up no matter what Peacock threw at them.

“It was never going to go easy, so we really needed our mental game to be strong,” Bell said. “We knew they were going to put up a good fight, we didn’t expect anything less from them and we’ve only seen them get better as the season went.

“But everyone we put on the court played their role and played their role well, it was an entire team effort. Really, the key was to have confidence and we were able to persevere.”

The Spirits won’t have very long to celebrate. Now their focus turns to the ultimate prize this season as they prepare to host the SHSAA 4A girls provincial championship, a tournament they’ll be entering as the number one seed.

“We rose to the challenge and I’m just super happy we got the win, but there were some ups and downs that we’re going to have to fine tune this week before provincials,” Bell said. “That’s what we’ll work on the next couple days here before provincials and we’re looking forward to a really great weekend.”

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