Crusader girls overcome slow start in finals

After a loss in the Dawson Invitational final to the Porter Creek Rams a month ago, Vanier Crusaders head coach Natasha Bilodeau pointed to “mental collapses” as the reason for her team’s loss.

After a loss in the Dawson Invitational final to the Porter Creek Rams a month ago, Vanier Crusaders head coach Natasha Bilodeau pointed to “mental collapses” as the reason for her team’s loss.

However, the shoe was on the other foot in the senior girls’ final of the Yukon Championships on Saturday at the Canada Games Centre.

After storming over the Crusaders in the opening set, the Rams could not get it together in the following two, suffering a 12-25, 25-22,15-13 loss to end the volleyball season.

“I don’t know (what went wrong), that’s the million dollar question,” said Rams head coach Jordan Borgford. “There was a lineup change but it shouldn’t have impacted anything. We just had 24 mistakes for Vanier points.

“Vanier earned (points) by keeping the ball in play, but we made a ton of mental mistakes in the second set.”

For Bilodeau, it wasn’t so much the Rams losing their edge as much as her team raising their game.

“I think the girls were just really nervous (in the first set),” said Bilodeau. “There’s a Porter Creek team in every (9/10, 11/12) final and their goal is to make a sweep.

“I think we had the jitters a little bit because our goal was to disrupt that.”

The second set was particularly bad for the Rams. Reaching a tie at numerous points through the set, errors from the Rams continuously put the Crusaders in front. However, after a Rams’ double-hit violation to make it 14-14, the Crusaders rightfully earned the lead, which they held until the end of the set. Smacking down a free ball, Crusader Terri Publicover put her team up 15-14 before Sonja Berg put in a winning serve. The Crusaders took the set on a kill up the middle from tournament All-Star Erika New.

“Erica is a really consistent player for us,” said Bilodeau. “She is able to play libero for us when we need her to, and she also plays as power and she’s very consistent.

“When she’s back to serve, we never worry that it’s going to be a miss. We have a lot of confidence in our play.

“Throughout this tournament she has been outstanding for us, especially as libero, keeping us in games.”

Tied 13-13 in the third set, Crusaders libero Patty Wallingham dug a spike from Ram Emily McDougall, keeping the rally going, before Ram Fiona Azizaj put a spike in the net. With match-point, the Crusaders took the gold in an anticlimactic fashion, with Crusaders captain Kelsey Smeeton, in what would have been a free ball for the Rams, bumping her team’s third hit into the net-tape with the ball dribbling over for the point.

“We were comfortable; we relaxed so much that we thought we could win,” said New. “We just worked hard for every point.

“Our plan (in the third set) was to get the first five points and pull away. Our coach, Natasha, said to get pumped up and enjoy the game.”

As with the senior boys, a real rivalry between Porter Creek and Vanier developed this season.

In the first big contest of the season, the Dawson Invitational, the Rams prevented a Crusader sweep of the tournament, defeating Vanier in the final. Then the Crusaders evened the score, toppling the top-seeded Rams in the Super Volley finals on November 19.

“I knew if we were going to win, we’d have to work hard and the starts would have to align a little for us,” said Bilodeau. “I have a really hard-working team, so I’m never surprised when they come out with a winning outcome.”

Finishing third was the only other senior girls’ team entered in the championship, the FH Collins Warriors.

Girls’ All-Star Team

Kelsey Smeeton (Crusaders)

Robyn Fortune (Crusaders)

Terri Publicover (Crusaders)

Fiona Azizaj (Rams)

Emily McDougall (Rams)

Dahria Beatty (Warriors)

MVP Erica New (Crusaders)

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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