The Vanier Spirits found themselves in one of the toughest situations at team could find themselves in at the SHSAA 4A girls provincial volleyball championship on Saturday afternoon.
After going unbeaten through the round robin and sweeping Regina Luther in the quarter-final, the Spirits played through an absolute barnburner with the North Battleford John Paul II Crusaders in their quest to reach the gold medal game.
Unfortunately for the local crew, they’d drop a 25-18, 22-25, 15-7 decision in that contest and were relegated to the bronze medal game.
A half hour later across the city back at Vanier.
So a catastrophically disappointed team gathered their gear and raced over to the Ned Andreoni Memorial Gym to face the Meadow Lake Spartans in a contest neither team wanted to be in.
So how did it all turn out?
Just two teams that left everything on the court in a quest to win their final game of the season, with Vanier emerging from a back-and-forth battle with a 20-25, 27-25, 15-7 victory to claim the bronze medal.
“We had a super tough game in the semifinal against JPII, we went to three and they took us in the third set, and we knew right away that playing in the bronze medal match would be super challenging,” said Vanier coach Aly Bell. “I’m so proud of the girls and how they bounced back and were able to take the win, playing two three-set games in a row like that is really tough.”
After Meadow Lake won the first set, it could have been easy for Vanier to just consider that the writing on the wall and resign themselves to their fate. But the Spirits took an early lead in the second game and held fast even when the Spartans came back and were a point away from taking the win themselves, eventually forcing a third and deciding set.
There, Vanier again raced out to an early edge, leading 8-3 at the change of sides and eventually pulling away to finish things off.
“It’s really exciting, the whole season was amazing,” said Vanier Grade 12 Callie Klemenz. “We went undefeated in the city league, undefeated in the round robin and that semifinal got to us, but we won the bronze and that’s awesome.”
Going through back-to-back exceptionally difficult contests would have led to many a team wilting from the pressure, but the Spirits made a point of preparing for those kinds of games all season.
“That’s what we’ve been working on all year and that’s just a testament to what we’ve been practicing and what we’ve been trying to fine-tune,” Bell said. “I can’t complain about it at all and our goal was to medal, so I’m really proud of the girls.”
Everything leading up to the semifinal was a series of sweeps for the Spirits.
Vanier defeated Melville 25-28, 25-14 before downing Lumsden 25-7, 25-21, Humboldt 25-14, 25-8 and Martensville 25-17, 26-24 to close out the round robin. That set up their quarter-final with Luther, with Vanier cruising to a 25-7, 25-10 victory.
Klemenz was one of eight seniors in the Vanier line-up and needless to say, winning a provincial medal in their Grade 12 year was a sweet accomplishment.
“I’m proud of the team, we’ve grown so much,” Klemenz said. “I’ve played on this team since Grade 10 and it’s all we can ask for to win a medal. We have a lot of Grade 12s and winning a medal like this a great way to finish off.”
The Central Cyclones didn’t have a lot of luck on their side and missed the playoff round by a single win after running into three of the four semifinalists in their pool.
They opened with a 25-19, 25-14 loss to eventual provincial champion Nipawin before falling 25-17, 25-22 to Luther, 27-25, 25-20 to finalist North Battleford and 25-15, 25-16 to Meadow Lake.
As close as the bronze medal game was, Nipawin and John Paul II actually managed to outdo it in the gold medal game, with the L.P. Miller Bears emerging with a 25-17, 13-25, 18-16 victory to claim the provincial title.