Getting that experience at a provincial championship is huge for the development of a young athlete and the Muskie senior girls' volleyball team was able to see firsthand the level of effort needed to succeed on the all-Ontarios stage.
Fort High compiled 1-3 record en route to a fifth-place finish out of five teams in Pool 'D' play at the OFSAA 'AA' girls' volleyball championship held in Kingsville back on March 9-11 before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country.
That left the Muskies finishing just shy of advancing to the consolation round.
“I felt our biggest challenge was consistency during the tournament,” said Muskie head coach Duane Roen, whose squad had qualified for OFSAA after sweeping the Westgate Tigers 2-0 in the best-of-three NWOSSAA championship last month in Thunder Bay.
"We had glimpses of inconsistency throughout the season and it showed up in the tournament as well. I think the Grade 11 girls quickly realized that consistency wins games.
“They were also able to get a glimpse of the competition level at the provincials,” he noted.
“We were able to go and watch the bronze and gold medal games on [the] Wednesday, which I hope will inspire them to train in the off-season and be better prepared for next year.”
The Muskies opened Pool 'D' play on March 9 with a 2-1 win (26-24, 17-25 and 15-11) over Eden Flyers (St. Catharines) before then falling in straight sets to St. Joseph's (Barrie) later in the day.
The set scores in that one were 22-25/17-25.
“Our first match against the Eden Flyers was our best match of the tournament,” Roen lauded.
"Eden was ranked seventh in the province and were OFSAA champions in 2015. The girls were trying to hold it together, but you could see the nervousness before the game. We settled in right away and played strong, but Eden slowly caught up to us and we had a great battle and first set win.
“Eden came back to take the second set 25-17," he recalled. ”The team played a strong, exciting third set getting the match win 15-11.
“Unfortunately, that was the end of our winning streak,” Roen lamented.
“We had the exact opposite showing for our next match. Our second match against St. Joseph's, we could not seem to get anything right,” he conceded.
“We struggled in all aspects of our game and I'm not sure why. The team we played (ranked 17th) had a few good servers and played solid defence, but they primarily fed the ball back to us and we continued to make offensive errors. We left that match very frustrated with our poor performance.”
The Muskies then dropped a 2-0 decision (16-25/17-25) to Nelson (Burlington) on the morning of March 10 before ending play at the all-Ontarios with a 2-1 loss to Port Perry that afternoon.
After winning the first set 25-21 against Port Perry, the black-and-gold lost the next two by scores of 25-22 and 15-7 to leave them out of qualifying for both the consolation and championship rounds.
“They were a solid team and had a lethal middle attack,” Roen said of the Nelson squad.
"We stayed positive throughout the match but lost both sets. We did have to deal with some adversity in the second set. Our setter went for a ball up in the stands, injured her foot, and had to sit out the remainder of the match.
“We scrambled to put an offence together and I was impressed with how the team stepped up and dealt with a tough situation in a positive way,” he enthused.
As for the final match of OFSAA against Port Perry, Roen said it was a crucial one for the Muskies in order for them to advance, which sadly didn't happen.
“A win meant we would finish in second place in our pool and move on to the championship side,” he noted.
"However, a loss put us in a tie with Saint Joseph's. Since we already lost to Saint Joseph's, we would end up being knocked out of the playoffs.
"We came out with strong play in the first set and were able to take that one, although Port Perry had a strong push at the end of the set, he recalled.
Port Perry battled back in the second set with strong serving and a better offence to claim the set, according to Roen.
"We faltered in the third set and could not pass effectively right off the start and Port Perry gained a strong lead, which they kept throughout the remainder of the third set, said Roen.
“It was a tough loss as I believe we were more than capable of winning that one and I believe they thought the same. Sometimes, you play your best volleyball and end up on the losing side. Port Perry went on to the consolation side and lost in the finals to Sudbury.”
Streetsville (Mississauga) claimed the gold medal with a 3-1 win (25-16, 25-20, 22-25, and 25-11) over Nelson in the championship match on the afternoon of March 11 while Widdifield (North Bay) snared the bronze with a five-set victory (25-14, 23-25, 25-21, 17-25, and 15-10) over General Amherst (Amherstburg).