By the time things were all said and done that weekend, the season had become truly legendary.
The Vikings took a 2-1 (25-16, 16-25, 15-13) win over Osler VCA in the championship game to claim the first boys provincial volleyball championship in school history. The win capped an amazing campaign that saw Vanier go undefeated in the regular season before winning their first city championship since 1993.
“We played very strong volleyball, we were just a complete team,” said Vikings coach Levi Broda. “We didn't have a weakness in the sense that even when we were struggling our fundamentals allowed us to stay in sets and really wear other teams down. When things don't go the way you want, you can always rely on your fundamentals and you can be there and stay in it until things start to click and then get going.”
Even with how well things turned out, the provincial run wasn't completely perfect. After winning their first three round robin games 2-0 over La Loche, Fort Qu'Appelle and Humboldt, the Vikings ran into Osler for the first time to close out the preliminary round and themselves fell 2-0.
Interestingly enough, Broda felt that loss was especially important in the greater scheme of things, as Vanier was competitive in the contest despite facing some sudden adversity -- starting setter Kyle Gotana suffered an ankle injury the previous night, pressing back-up Matthew Flanagan into service. Flanagan turned in what Broda termed 'the game of his life', only to have the team struggle around him.
“Could you imagine being thrown into that environment?” Broda queried. “He's had limited reps in setting all year and he played so well. He gave us a chance, but the rest of the team didn't support him as we needed.
“But that loss was really important, because it showed the guys that we have a strong team and we still have an opportunity no matter what happens So even though it was a loss it was still important for how we were going to finish.”
The Vikings rebounded in style in their first playoff game, defeating Lumsden 2-0 before taking a 2-0 win over La Loche in the semifinal.
That set up the gold medal game against Osler and what Broda termed one of the most exciting matches he's been a part of.
After Vanier won the first set, Osler raised the level of their serve game to the point the Vikings struggled to reply. A handful of adjustments heading into the third set and it was volleyball war the rest of the way.
“The third set was just a blur,” Broda said. “Every point was contested like it was life or death, both teams battled it out. Even the game-winning point, I couldn't remember what happened, but both teams were selling out and it was just a battle, battle, battle.”
The Vikings ended up with a 14-11 lead before Osler picked up two quick points to put the pressure on. That set the stage for a final point that didn't look as if it would end.
“We had four opportunities in that last rally to win the point and on the fourth one we got a brush off the block and ball hit the floor,” Broda said.
And with that, Vanier were provincial champions.
“We all knew that it would be achievable to get a provincial medal, but no one wanted to say it, that we were capable of winning a gold, just out of respect to all the other teams,” Broda said. “It's really special and it's something that every single one of us will never forget. The boys said it, they cannot wait to come into the gym every day when that banner is hanging and marvel at what they accomplished. I hope for years and years to come they come back to Vanier and just reflect on that amazing weekend in Melville.”
The gold medal final can be watched at https://streaming.lskysd.ca/player/?i=14jF5.