The St. Charles College Cardinals senior girls volleyball team knew they had one final crack at the Lockerby Vikings, and they were going to make the most of it.
“It's been four years in the running,” said Maddy Lightle. “We never won a regular season game against them, never won a playoff game.”
In fact, a core of this same Cardinal team lost to the Vikes in the city final in both grades 9 and 10.
“The mood coming in was that we wanted this badly,” said Lightle.
Trailing two sets to one Feb. 17 at the Cambrian College gymnasium, St. Charles rallied, taking the fourth set 25-20.
Again, in the fifth and final set, Lockerby set the tone, jumping out to an 8-3 lead as the teams switched sides. But despite two timeouts, the Vikings were unable to stem the tide as the Cardinals knotted the contest at 9-9.
Deadlocked at 11-11, 12-12 and 13-13, it wasn't until the final two points that the second-place finishers in league play were able to put just enough distance between themselves and their longtime rivals, posting a 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-13 win.
The Division A senior girls volleyball banner is the first in school history for St. Charles College, with the honour having been contested since 1968.
“Our game plan was just to be mentally tough,” said coach Gerry Schroeder, just finishing his third year with the senior girls squad. “I knew we had the talent to go head to head with these guys. We knew we had to work around Sam (Cooper) a little bit in the middle, being as tall as she is.”
Cooper was awarded game MVP honours for Lockerby while Hannah Grace received the nod for the Cards, which graduates the entire starting six at the end of this year.
“We've struggled with motivation against them,” said Lightle. “Today, we refused to lose the last game we will ever play against them. During that fourth set, that's when it felt real to me.”
“The girls have wanted Lockerby in the city finals all year,” said Schroeder.
Receiving a balanced contribution across the lineup that also features setter Marissa Falvo and attackers Briana Eles and Alexandra Ross, Schroeder singled out the efforts of a young lady far more well-known for her participation in a whole variety of sports at St. Charles than simply her skills on the volleyball court.
“Maddy Lightle. She went after everything, she didn't give up, she had a lot of energy, she really worked hard. I'm really proud of her,” said Schroeder.
The match was the second of two back-to-back encounters that went the distance, as the Lasalle Lancer juniors turned the tables on St. Charles in the opening battle.
The Lancers dropped sets one and two but persisted, climbing all the way back to snatch victory from the hands of defeat with a final line score of 22-25, 15-25, 25-18, 25-21, 15-11.
“We all came out positive and we never got down on ourselves,” noted setter and Northeastern Public School graduate Brittany Lebel. “We knew we had to play good defence. If we didn't have good defence, we were ultimately going to lose.”
These two teams have gone to five sets countless times in the past, though not necessarily in a setting with this much at stake.
“It was a lot more nerve-racking today,” said Lebel. “The other games didn't matter as much. This was way more intense.”
The Feb. 17 matchups wrapped up a city championship weekend that kicked off Feb. 15 at Collège Boréal.
Lasalle laid claim to the midget crown, taking down Lo-Ellen in five sets (25-15, 25-13, 22-25, 23-25, 15-12), while the Lively Hawks capped off an outstanding junior season, garnering honours in the Division II ranks with a four-set win over the Sacré-Coeur Griffons (25-21, 18-25, 25-21, 20-25).
The Lively seniors were unable to complete the improbable sweep, falling to the Chelmsford Flyers in four sets as CVDCS picked up their first Division 2 senior crown since 2008.
NOSSA volleyball action kicks off on Feb. 22, with games slated for Sudbury, Sturgeon Falls and Sault Ste. Marie.