Call them the comeback champs.
Down by a match point with the provincial 5A championship on the line, the St. Mary Marauders senior girls volleyball team pulled it off – they beat Saskatoon’s Bishop James Mahoney Saints two sets to one for the win in the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association final.
“The whole weekend was super weird – we were all so calm; we weren’t in those pressure situations. Everyone clicked on the court,” team captain Carrington Berezowski said on Tuesday.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in. Everyone here is still smiling around the school.”
The Marauders entered the Nov. 17-18 weekend championship tournament in Melfort drawn into a five-team pool with Weyburn, Regina’s Campbell collegiate, Melfort and Saskatoon’s St. Joseph high school. Five other teams were drawn into the second pool.
The Marauders earned playoff victories against the Regina Luther Lions (quarter-final) and the Carlton Crusaders (semi-final) to earn a berth in the final against the Saints on Saturday.
The Saskatoon squad took the first set 25-22, forcing the Marauders into a comeback scenario. They tied the match with a second-set win by a score of 25-20.
After a gritty third set, the Saints were poised to take the title, holding match point and a 15-14 lead over the Marauders.
That’s when Berezowski dug deep and kept her team in it.
The Saints served the ball to the Marauders, who kept it in play and set up their captain for the spike – she nailed the kill shot and tied the set 15-all.
Berezowski’s next kill put her side up 16-15, holding match point and sitting on the verge of redemption.
The Saints couldn’t handle the Marauders’ serve, returning the ball into their own net.
St Mary won; the team ran onto the court in celebration.
“It’s very surreal. I’m very grateful. It was such a magical weekend for us,” head coach Shaun Hunko said.
He described how the “stars aligned” for his team over the weekend; each of the squad’s 14 players seemed to be in the zone and “stepped up more than we could have asked for.”
“In girls volleyball, serving and passing are the two most important things. We went into the weekend knowing we needed to be strong in those areas.
“We had an efficient offence, with a good kills-to-errors ratio.”
And specifically in the final “we played remarkable defence … we made a total of 50 digs.”
The Marauders were also aided by veteran leadership, led by their captain, who brought them together throughout the game and the weekend, according to Hunko.
He said that he and assistant coaches Renee Gareau and Elizabeth Hudon were pleased to coach a resilient, gritty team, which had a lot of joy for the game and each other.
The championship win was Berezowski’s cap to four years spent on the squad.
Over that time, “I was able to see how the team progressed. (Our coach) changed our mentality,” she said.
“It came down to how we focused on each game, each set, each point … Losing that first set, and then winning that second set to carry us into the third, it was special.”
The Marauders almost let the win slip away.
They held match point at 14-12, until the Saints came back to put themselves in a position to win, coming within one point of it.
But St Mary’s year-long trend of earning come-from-behind wins proved necessary when it mattered it most.
“This team, we got put in so many situations of being put down and coming back.”
To win gold and bring it to Prince Albert, “it’s well earned and well deserved. It shows we are a true competitor when it comes to sports,” she said.
The gold medal win is the first provincial championship won by a St. Mary girls team, according to Hunko.
The school’s championship volleyball team includes the following students: Seanna Trumier and Emma Thorimbert in grade 9; Alyssa Abrametz in grade 10; grade 11 students Francheska Pascual, Amanda Puetz, Madison Fisher, Kathlyn Tessier and Andra Buglass; and grade 12 students Kelsey Conant, Emily Hemsworth, Katie Martin, Carrington Berezowski, Erika Thorimbert and Kelsey Trumier.
Two sets of siblings played on the squad: Kelsey and Seanna Trumier along with Erika and Emma Thorimbert.