Cobequid locks up fifth consecutive Northumberland title
TRURO - Cassie O'Neil was a bundle of nerves ahead of the Cobequid Cougars match Saturday against the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Royals.
She had only played a handful of games as the Cougars full-time setter. Now, after a player called in sick forcing the Cougars to juggle positions the morning before the game, she was being thrust into the role in the Northumberland region girls volleyball final on the Royals' home floor.
"But I knew I had to step up and I couldn't let the team down," said the 16-year-old, who usually plays back court defence. "I just wanted to do my best and hoped it would be enough."
O'Neal was solid all match and the Cougars rolled to a straight sets win (25-19, 25-16, 25-18) to lock down their fifth consecutive regional crown. The win gives Cobequid a berth at provincials Dec. 4 and 5 at Cape Breton University.
"(Dr. John Hugh Gillis) is one of the top teams in the province," said Cougars coach Bob Piers. "We thought it would be more of a battle but we played well and maybe they felt some of the pressure of playing on their home floor."
The Royals jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in the first set. Piers called a time out, settled his team down and they never looked back.
Anastasia Callaghan collected 15 kills and 13 digs while adding three aces and 16 perfect passes. Kiersten Cormier added 10 blocks, five kills and two aces and Bethany Ferguson made 17 successful serves, including four aces. Heather Mills was also strong in the serve-receive role.
"The key was we really adjusted well," Piers said. "We practiced that plan all week so when we had to adjust I thought the girls might get confused or upset, but they handled it very, very well."
Piers commended O'Neil for being able to set aside her concerns and focus on the task at hand.
"There aren't many teams that have a second setter that can go in and do the job under those type of circumstances," he said.
Despite the changes, O'Neil said the Cougars' focus on winning never wavered.
"We knew we had to stay focused to the end to get what we wanted and we just kept playing hard no matter what happened," she said. "We battled through the points they got and we didn't miss many serves."
Having the ability to adapt to last minute changes is something that will bode well for the Cougars at provincials.
"It's huge for us," Piers said. "It's really important because you need to make changes at a tournament like that."
The Cougars are taking part in a provincial tune-up exhibition this weekend at Dr. John Hugh Gillis.
The host South Colchester Wolves made it to the final in the Division 2 regional tournament, but fell to the Hants East Tigers.
The Wolves defeated the Cougars #2 squad 25-19, 25-17 to open the event.