As perennial volleyball contenders, the Eastview Wildcats senior girls team can typically run the table in local Simcoe County Athletic Association (SCAA) play. But, this year, it was a tougher road to the provincial championship.
The Wildcats finished the regular season in a three-way tie with the Nantyr Shores Tritons and Orillia Nighthawks. And only one of those teams was going to get the chance to take on Catholic school champions, St. Theresa’s Thunder, for that shot at provincial glory.
“I think we really had to stay focused, especially during practice,” said Eastview’s Jaymie Stephenson. “We worked hard in all of our games to keep developing our skills.”
The Wildcats entered the playoffs as second seed, forcing a semifinal contest against Orillia. The Wildcats emerged victorious and set up an SCAA final on the road against the Tritons, the only team Eastview lost to during regular season play.
“(After that defeat), we definitely regrouped and tried some new lineups and different things as a team,” Stephenson said. “We were still trying to work hard in games with developing ourselves and having a group effort.”
Things didn’t begin well in the final. Eastview took a 25-15 loss in the opening set. From there on though, the Wildcats really began to dig in.
“We really had to focus on every set and every point against them to really stay focused and make sure we stayed above them,” said Eastview’s Jakobie Sturrock.
One of the biggest factors for the Wildcats to be successful was to have their heads in the game.
“It’s so important,” Sturrock said. “If you have all of the skills but you’re not in it mentally, then you can’t perform to the best of your abilities. It doesn’t work as well.”
The Wildcats would take the next three sets to defeat Nantyr Shores and regain home-floor advantage for the Georgian Bay Secondary School Association final against St. Theresa’s. In the championship, the Eastview team came out slowly in the first set, but gradually got their footing in a 25-18 win.
“They had some big swings and serves and we really had to come back from that and focus on passing,” Stephenson said. “That was probably our biggest downfall in the first set.”
Moving the ball around well has been a focal point for the Wildcats this season.
“I think communication has gotten a lot better, but we’ve also gotten to know each other a lot better and gotten a lot closer and that’s allowed us to communicate with one another better,” said Sturrock, the team’s primary setter. “We’re able to communicate well when it comes to passing and hitting and that helps us be a lot better.”
Eastview won the second set 25-14 thanks to their ability to keep points alive and off of their half of the floor.
“We’ve improved a lot on our defence and keeping the ball going,” Sturrock said. “We struggled with it a bit at the beginning and it allowed us to practice it a bit in some of the easier games, but it’s something we improved a lot on.”
The Wildcats clinched yet another Georgian Bay crown by winning the third set, 25-17.
That meant players like Stephenson and Sturrock would get to go to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) tournament for a second consecutive year.
“It’s our last year playing, so it’s exciting for everyone to be there,” Stephenson said.
The Wildcats finished OFSAA round-robin play at London with a record of 1-3 and lost out on advancing to the quarter-finals due to a tiebreaker.