Cobequid girls bring home third consecutive provincial crown
TRURO - Anastasia Callaghan was so close to walking around with a broken heart for the rest of the school year.
The Cougars were a point away from losing to the Riverview Royals in the semifinal of the NSSAF Division 1 girls volleyball championship, hosted on the weekend by the Royals at the Cape Breton University campus. They came back to win, and swept the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Royals 2-0 (25-21, 25-13) in the final to claim their third consecutive provincial title and 11th in 14 years.
"It's all I could have asked for," said Callaghan, the only member of the Cougars to win a title in all three of her high school seasons. "That was the goal and we reached it. If we had have lost, I would have been bitter for the rest of the year, that's how much I wanted it."
It was that kind of determination that was the Cougars' key to success at provincials, and all season long, said coach Bob Piers.
"How (assistant coach) Heather Wolfe described it was 'competitive endurance,'" Piers said.
"We were able to hang in there and battle longer than other teams during the year and that was no different this weekend."
The Cougars opened the tournament with straight sets wins over Horton (15-14, 15-12) and Prince Andrew (15-10, 15-8).
They followed with a 2-1 loss to Sackville (21-25, 27-25, 15-11) and battled to a 2-1 win over Riverview in the semi (22-25, 27-25, 15-11). The match saw the Cougars trailing 24-23 in the second set.
"All they needed was one point and it would have been all over," Callaghan said. "But we kept our composure and won the game."
Battling back is something the Cougars were forced to do several times throughout the season en route to winning six of the nine tournaments they competed in. Callaghan said she feels that paid off on the weekend.
"It wasn't the first time we fought back," she said.
"We were determined all year and I think the experience of battling back really prepared us for provincials because we had done it before."
Callaghan led the Cougars with 43 kills, 18 aces, 58 digs and 64 perfect passes.
Fellow senior Kiersten Cormier added 36 kills and 40 blocks. Bethany Ferguson collected 10 aces and Heather Mills made 35 digs and 39 perfect passes.
With just two players (Callaghan and Cormier) returning from last year's undefeated squad, and a third senior in Ferguson, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the Cougars this season.
"A lot of teams around the province thought this was their year to beat CEC," Piers said. "We graduated nine players."
Unlike last season, a provincial title wasn't a given for this year's edition of the Cougars.
"I always knew the possibility was there (to win provincials)," Piers said. "But I also knew there were a number of other teams in the province capable of beating us."
But he never questioned the desire of his players to complete the three-peat.
"No," he said. "This team worked so hard to get where we are. For the girls to step up and perform the way they did was amazing."
The veteran coach credited his three seniors for leading the charge all season.
"Every team in the province geared their defence to trying to stop them," Piers said. "For them to come through says a lot about their character.
"Anastasia is the best player to ever come through the program and she was our MVP, no question, but it was a full-team effort and all the girls played well."
Piers said he's excited about what the future holds for the Cougars, who lose only those three seniors.
"The other girls, having the experience of the pressure of playing at provincials, will be great for next year," he said.
The Cougars boys came up short, getting knocked out with a 2-1 loss to No. 8 seed J.L. Ilsley (25-12, 20-25, 7-15) at provincials at Horton.
"It was disappointing to lose to the eighth seed," said coach Harvey MacEachern. "They were good but we didn't play to our potential."
Fifth seeded Cobequid opened the tournament with a 2-1 loss to No. 1 Sackville (11-25, 27-25, 7-15) before beating No. 4 Citadel 2-0 (25-13, 25-19).
The Cougars graduate four seniors.
The South Colchester Wolves nabbed a silver medal at the girls Division 2 provincials in Bridgewater, the school's first provincial medal in the sport.
"It feels great, I'm so proud of the team and our accomplishment," said senior power Marley Geddes. "It was hard but it was worth it."
The Wolves fell 2-0 (25-18, 25-18) in the final to the hosts after beating Sackville #2 25-9, 25-22 and Middleton 25-19, 25-19 before falling to Bridgewater 25-10, 25-17.
The Wolves defeated Par-en-Bas 25-21, 27-25 in the semifinal.
"It was an honour to coach the team," said coach Teri Kennedy. "It was their hard work and desire to win. They played great."
Caitlyn Stewart collected 21 kills and 14 blocks while Emelye Porter also made 14 blocks.
Geddes and Caitland Reid added 27 perfect passes and Carley O'Neill made six aces.