Queens 3 Elans 2
LONGUEUIL, Que. — No one can deny the talent on the RDC Queens, but it’s their unbelievable mental strength that gave them their second straight Canadian Colleges Athletic Association women’s volleyball national title.
The Queens needed every bit of that mental fortitude to down FX Garneau Elans of Quebec City 25-22, 19-25, 22-25, 26-24, 15-13 in the gold medal game Saturday.
“It was crazy … we never gave up, we fought our hardest and left everything on the floor,” said Queens second-year power hitter Leah Koot, who was named the tournament’s MVP.
“I can’t even think right now, I’m so excited. All I remember is feeling we can do this. That we trust each other and we all believe in each other. There are really no words to describe it right now.”
After winning the opening set, thanks to some solid play at the net which saw the Queens record five stuff blocks and 13 kills, the Elans started to take over, getting their hands on almost every ball the RDC squad hit.
“They dug everything … they gave us nothing,” added Koot.
“We didn’t give them those two games, they deserved them, they outplayed us,” said Queens head coach Talbot Walton.
The Elans inserted power hitter Allison Servant into the game in the second set and she combined with middle Anne-Sophie Tanquay for 13 kills in the second set and nine in the third.
The Queens did a better job of handling the pair in the fourth set, but still trailed 24-23 with All-Canadian Maud Chapleau serving for the match. However, she missed her serve and the Queens took advantage of it, scoring two straight points, including an ace by Megan Schmidt on the winning point.
The fifth set was as intense. The Queens took a 13-11 lead only to see the Elans tie it at 13. Following a long rally Chapleau hit a cross-court ball out. Then came the biggest block of the tournament by Miranda Dawe on Noemie Daigneault, sending the RDC bench, and a large contingent of fans, into a frenzy.
“It felt so good,” said Dawe. “I had no idea she would come down the line, but I remembered Talbot telling me in the first set to get my butt out there. They had wiped a couple off me before, but there was no way that was getting past me again.”
“Miranda has good lateral movement and once she got her mitts on it it was all over,” said Walton.
Dawe, who along with Koot sat on the bench last year when the Queens defeated Grande Prairie for the gold, believed the team’s depth played a major role in their success.
“I definitely think our practices played a big role in our success,” she said.
“We battle hard against each other every day and this showed our character. They play unreal defence which made this so much fun. I know for myself I loved being on the floor this year … it was amazing being part of this team.”
Walton believes the final was a highlight of his coaching career.
“It was one of those games where we were more determined than anyone else,” he said. “You can never count this team out. The tighter it is the better they play. For me it was the most fun game I’ve ever coached in. I had a great time in sets three, four and five. I could see in their faces we were not giving up and would find a way to do it.”
Walton felt the team’s outside hitting of Dawe, Koot and Kelsey Tymkow, who was on the right side, played a major role in the final outcome.
“I thought out outside hitters dominated the last couple of sets,” he said. “Kelsey struggled then caught fire and we had a good mix between Miranda and Leah. They didn’t have the experience of being on the floor last year, so for them to find it and play the way they did speaks volumes of their character.”
Setter Bronwyn Hawkes, libero Maddi Quinn and middle Alex Donaghy were regulars last season, although they didn’t have to play the role of leaders. They did this season and were outstanding
Hawkes and Donaghy were on the first team all-star team with Dawe on the second team.
Quinn, who was player of the game in the final, wasn’t an all-star but could well have been the MVP.
“Maddi responded all weekend. It’s unfortunate they don’t look at liberos as all-stars, or even MVP,” said Walton. “She dug everything and kept rallies alive and got the ball to Bronwyn, who was able to put the ball in good spots for our hitters.”
Hawkes said it was hard to pick between the two years, but because of the intensity of the final this year may be slightly better.
“Last year was tense for sure and winning the first time is always great,” she said. “We came here this year knowing we could do it, but once we got into that (final) game we played with all heart and the intensity was amazing, which made this even better.”
Much like Koot, Hawkes said she hardly remembers everything that happened down the stretch.
“All I remember is that they fought, we fought and as Talbot always says just play your best and it will show in the end. We did that.”
It was the third CCAA championship for the Queens, who won for the first time in 1984 under head coach Cor Ouwerkerk. That championship was the only time a team outside of Quebec won the title until 2007. On that occasion the Queens defeated Garneau in the final in Quebec.
The Queens are now the only team outside of Quebec to win more than three championships.
“It’s a great accomplishment and winning two in a row with the amount of turnover we had was huge,” said Walton. “The girls played their hearts out.”
A number of players are moving on, including both middles — Donaghy and Schmidt — Koot, Quinn and Hawkes.
“But what a great way to finish the year and volleyball,” said Hawkes, who finished with 42 assists and 24 digs. Quinn turned in an astronomical 43 digs while Koot had 16 kills, two stuff blocks and 15 digs. Dawe finished with 12 kills, two blocks and 18 digs while Donaghy had 13 kills, two blocks and nine digs; Tymkow 11 kills, a block and 10 digs and Schmidt seven kills, three blocks, an ace and 14 digs.
Camosun defeated Humber 3-1 in the bronze-medal final. Humber downed Grande Prairie 3-2 in one bronze semifinal and Camosun beat VIU 3-2 in the other.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can e reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at www.rdc.ab.ca/athleticsblog.