One streak is stopped, another is extended
by Randy Pascal
The C.R. Judd Jaguars were stopped just one step shy of extending an amazing streak of dominance to a full decade, and they have an incredibly
resilient crew of Churchill Chargers to thank for that.
Looking for their 10th consecutive Rainbow Elementary Girls Volleyball banner, coach Craig Thomson and the Jaguars looked to have their
hands on the prize, at a few key moments of the match.
C.R. Judd would take the opening two sets, 25-22, 25-17, before the Chargers began to mount a comeback. The fact that they took the next two sets, both
by scores of 25-22, without the services of multi-sport sensation Claudia Pellerin, who had rolled her ankle, spoke volumes of the mental toughness
of the Churchill crew.
But the comeback appeared derailed in set five, as the Capreol juggernaut built up advantages of 8-4, at the break, and 14-10, with four cracks at match
point. That was the cue for one final Chargers' rally, six straight points that were capped off by an emphatic strike to the floor from Isabella
Martelli, the imposing net presence whom coach Leslie Chisholm-Paul turned to time and time again.
"There's too many things going through my mind," noted Martelli shortly after the match, recalling the final few moments of this titanic battle. "There's
people cheering, there's people yelling on the bench, there's people playing, there's so much stuff going through my head."
"When I hit that ball, I just tried to put it down." From the outset, it was clear that an obvious height advantage which favoured the Chargers would be
put to the test by a young but technically skilled Jaguars crew.
Much of the C.R. Judd offense operated through attacking hitter Kona Haas, with diminutive grade six setter Ashley Ruddick providing plenty of hope
for the future of this team moving forward.
Conversely, the Churchill team benefitted from their go to players, mixed in nicely with some emerging talent in their lineup. "We've had a few players
on the team for a while, but we've added some new players this year, and we've been teaching them the game," said Martelli.
"We have to work more on our defense, we're not great at that, but once we have the ball in our possession, we know how to keep it in our possession,
which is a good thing."
The Churchill gold medal winning team is comprised of Tegan Heikkila, Hunter Brear, Peyton Brear, Sara Fox, Claudia Pellerin, Isabella Martelli,
McKenna Howard, Victoria Connelly, Belle Gauthier and coach Leslie Chisholm-Paul.
The C.R. Judd string of success might just give the Northeastern Cougars' boys something to shoot for. Make it three straight city titles for
coach Dale Beausoleil and company after the defending two-time champs handled Churchill in three straight sets, 25-15, 25-15, 25-8.
Even without the services of hitter Brandon Ruddiger on this day, Northeastern proved to be far too much for the Chargers to handle. Cameron
Showers may have led the winners in kills, but the reality is that this is a team that spreads the ball around as well as any in the city, with all
seven players suited up on Wednesday contributing nicely to the win.
"We were kind of expecting to be good," noted Showers. "We're a team, just co-operating and having fun, with a lot of communication on the court." A
rare left-handed hitting power, the grade 8 student acknowledged the challenge that he can present to opposing defenses, as well as his teammates.
"I usually have different footwork (than right-handed power hitters), and the setters usually have to push the ball more to set me," he said. "Because
I'm taller, they need to put it higher. Hitting certain positions, it's an advantage (swinging from the left)."
"I play power, so it's easier to hit down the line." The 2016 Northeastern Cougars team is as follows: Ian Mackey, Scott Bebonang, Aiden Deng-Knight,
Hayden Radey, Cale Bast, Owen Pawluk, Brandon Ruddier, Cameron Showers and coach Dale Beausoleil.