Cobequid girls after provincial three-peat
Cougars stalking NSSAF glory
TRURO - Most of the ingredients are identical.
The same teams, a tournament format and lots of fans.
But there's just something different about the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Division 1 girls volleyball championship that sets it apart from other tournament weekends.
"It's what you've worked for all year," said Cobequid Cougars senior middle Kiersten Cormier. "It's the big finale."
The Cougars are trying to lock down a three-peat this weekend and their 11th title in 14 years at the event, hosted by the Riverview Royals at the Cape Breton University campus. They open today at 3 p.m. against the Horton Griffins, followed by a 6 p.m. meeting with Prince Andrew.
Also in attendance will be Dr. John Hugh Gillis, Sackville, C.P. Allen and Citadel.
The Cougars qualified for provincials with a straight-sets win over Gillis for their fifth consecutive Northumberland Region title.
Playing for two provincial championship squads, including one that went undefeated a year ago, has equipped the Cougars' seniors - Cormier, Anastasia Callaghan and Bethany Ferguson - with all the experience a player could ask for in dealing with pressure situations. They are lessons that haven't been lost on them this week.
"I think past provincials have really helped prepare us," Ferguson said. "Provincials are different. There's a lot of pressure and a lot of people watching everything you do and I think playing in those situations has really helped prepare us."
The seniors have been using the past week to help prepare the younger players for what to expect this weekend and to fine tune their skills.
"I've just been trying to give them tips and pointers because we know what to expect," Cormier said.
Those tips and pointers are greatly appreciated by Kayli Gault, a back court defender and the Cougars' lone rookie. The 15-year-old said advice from the older players has helped ease her nerves ahead of her first high school provincial event.
"They told me to leave it all on the court and don't hold anything back," she said. "They talked about what it will be like so now I know and I'm not just walking in not knowing what to expect and I feel better prepared."
Gault said it's that kind of advice that's helped her adjust to the high school level and a big part of why the Cougars have won six of the nine tournaments they entered this season.
"I think the seniors have done a great job," she said. "They pulled everyone together and I think that's why we've done so well."
The Cougars boys side is in Horton on the hunt for a provincial banner and they are eying their 3 p.m. opener against Sackville, which is vying for its fourth consecutive crown.
"We want to win that and set the tone for the weekend," said senior right side Will Sandeson.
The Cougars will also have to get through Citadel, J.L. Ilsley, Halifax West, Park View and Dr. John Hugh Gillis.
Most of the Cougars play club volleyball together and lost to Sackville's club team in the provincial final in May. Now they're looking for redemption.
"Definitely," Sandeson said. "I want it really bad."
The Cougars have struggled to get past the semifinal in several events this season, but Sandeson said he's confident his team can go all the way this weekend.
"We'll have our best team on the floor," he said. "We haven't been at full strength all year and everything has been working great in practice (this week)."
The South Colchester Wolves are looking for a provincial title at the Division 2 girls tournament today in Bridgewater.
The Wolves open at 4:45 p.m. against Sackville and follow with a 7:15 p.m. meeting against Middleton. They also play the host tomorrow at 9 a.m.
Hants East, Par-en-Bas, Millwood and Central Kings are also at the event.
The Hants East Tigers are hosting the boys Division 2 championship today and Saturday.
Action gets underway at Riverside Education Centre in Milford at 4:30 p.m. when the Tigers meet Horton, while West Kings battles Middleton.
Play continues until 7 p.m. with action resuming tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. The final is slated for 1 p.m.
Also competing are Liverpool and Par-en-Bas.
The North Colchester Mustangs are competing at the Division 4 girls championship this weekend at St. Mary's Academy.
The Mustangs face Duncan MacMillan at 3 p.m. today and Cape Breton Highlands at 6 p.m.