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Pursuit: Camaraderie on the court at École Notre-Dame

This winning elementary volleyball squad from the small Hanmer school finds that dedication and teamwork can go a long way
The École Notre-Dame Hanmer Grade 7-8 volleyball squad show off banners from the past season.

They gathered a little over a year ago, several girls from the Grade 7 class at École Notre-Dame Hanmer, many having spent the bulk of their elementary schooling together, looking for a sporting outlet that could bind them even more.

Volleyball, it turns out, was the answer. And more specifically, volleyball under the tutelage of teacher Kim Legault.

“When we decided to try out for the team, we decided that we were all going to do it together,” said 13-year-old middle Aviana Cocchiola, her height making her the obvious choice for this role. “It’s just fun to hang out with your friends and play a sport that you really like at the same time.”

Wins were few as the team settled in during the winter of 2022-2023, but the laughs and smiles were many, with the foundation built for a group that would return with a few new additions this fall.

Recently, the Notre-Dame youngsters, representing a school of some 200 students or so, closed off an incredible season with their third championship banner, securing the Division B crown on the final tournament of the year, all while facing many an opponent from much larger schools.

The École Notre-Dame Hanmer Grade 7-8 volleyball squad show off a Division B banner from earlier this year. Supplied

“A team can have good players, but if they don’t work together, they’re not going to be a good team,” stated 13-year-old Jillian Martin, her answer demonstrating the type of insightfulness that also comes in super handy in her job as team setter. “We might have players that are not quite as strong, but we work really well together.”

Truth be told, the overall volleyball knowledge of the players on hand was quite limited as the team assembled last September, and yet there was an engrained element to the sport that clearly spoke to the group of 10.

“I felt that it was more fun to play than some other sports because it was more of a team sport,” said Jillian, who, along with Aviana, have now taken their talents to the Northern Chill Volleyball Club for the first time this year. 

“I found that setting the ball was easy for me because I use my hands a lot,” Jillian said. “For Avi, I have to set it farther because she’s left-handed, but everyone else is right-handed, so I set it high and close to the net.”

As it turns out, the slotting of personnel into the appropriate positions occurred somewhat organically for Coach Legault and her assistant coach, Tammy Dwyer. It was simply a matter of inserting square pegs into square holes.

“The first year I tried out, Madame Kim told me: I like you because you’re tall and I can do a lot with you,” said Aviana with a smile, drawing countless chuckles from her team sitting nearby. “That’s how I became a middle.”

Even the ancillary positions become apparent at first glance, including Sofie Lecuyer sliding in as captain of the cheerleading brigade. 

“She is very, very loud on the bench,” laughed Aviana, with none of her teammates looking like they were about to disagree in the least. “She is the one who starts all of the cheers.”

It’s easy to see the attraction for Legault given this very upbeat cast of characters.

“It’s been a delight coaching them,” she said. “They’re a fun group of girls,  very dedicated. They take the responsibility to start their warm-up by themselves. You can see that they are all trying to encourage one another, which makes coaching them so much easier.

“They have that positive attitude and are so coachable,” Legault added. “I am so proud of them and just how far that they have come since last year.”

The balance of the 2023-2024 Ecole Notre-Dame Hanmer girls volleyball roster includes: Cloé Dalcourt, Maya Tessarolo, Emma Chartrand, Ella Legault, Chloé Beaudoin, Alex Goulard and Taryn Lavigne.

Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


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