History was made Saturday night on the St. Mary volleyball court.
Thank to a straight sets win (25-18 and 25-23) over the defending champion Swift Current Colts, the Balgonie Greenall Griffins senior boys’ volleyball team were able to hoist the SHSAA 5A trophy for the first time in school history.
“I’m still kind of jittery,” Griffins Grade 12 middle player Foster Hilchey said after smashing home the winning point for his team.
“Once that ball hit the ground, we all took off running around the court with how excited we were. To be able to be part of this team and to give our school some recognition around the province means a lot.”
Although the girls’ team captured a provincial championship four years ago, the best result the boys’ program had achieved prior to this weekend was a bronze medal showing in 2003.
“This was a five-year plan to try and get to this point,” Griffins coach Brant Bylsma said. “It’s really something to see all of the hard work that the guys have put in with their club and school teams to pay off with this result.”
After losing their opening round-robin game Friday to the host St. Mary Marauders, the Griffins didn’t drop another set for the rest of the tournament.
They finished first in Pool A with a 3-1 record and picked up victories over the Saskatoon Centennial Chargers and the Regina LeBoldus Golden Suns to earn a spot in the championship game.
“After winning the South Regional to get to the provincials, the guys might have been a little bit over confident,” Bylsma said. “I think that loss to St. Mary was a real blessing for us, as it really showed the guys that you can lose to anybody at this event if you don’t step your game up.”
Although the final was won in straight sets, the match could have easily gone either way as both sides traded the lead on multiple occasions.
That was especially true in the final frame, as the Griffins scored five unanswered points after going down 23-20 to capture the gold medal.
“We have to give Swift Current a lot of credit, as they are a really good team,” Hilchey said.
“Both of us fought hard right from the opening serve, but we were able to get a few extra points in our favour and that made the difference tonight.”
The Colts, who were looking to win their fourth 5A title and become the first team since the 2015 and 2016 Marauders to capture consecutive provincial tournaments, had gone undefeated in Pool B to finish first at 4-0.
They followed that up with a clean sweep of the Yorkton Raiders in the quarter-final and then came from behind to defeat the Meadow Lake Carpenter Spartans in the semifinal.
“There were six teams here that a chance to win this tournament, so to be able to make it back to the final again was a huge accomplishment,” Colts coach Dan Andrie said.
“Balgonie deserved to win this game. They passed the ball and hit the ball well all night, and they never let anything hit the ground. We lost to a better team.”
The Spartans earned the final spot on the podium as they won the bronze medal game over the Golden Suns in straight sets (25-18 and 27-25).
“We had a bit of a tough time in the round-robin (where they finished third in Pool B with a 2-2 record) but we had our best performances once the playoffs started,” Spartans coach Cheyne Dallyn said.
“It’s always tough when you have to play in a bronze medal game, especially after a tough loss in the semifinal to Swift Current, but our guys bounced back and I’m really proud of them.”
Meanwhile, the Carlton Crusaders girls’ program earned a fourth place finish for the second consecutive year at their 5A tournament, as they lost the bronze medal game in straight sets to the Weyburn Eagles in Saskatoon Saturday.
The Regina Campbell Tartans swept aside the host Holy Cross Crusaders to capture their first provincial title since 2015.
A full recap on the Crusaders’ showing and a quarter-final finish by the defending provincial champion St. Mary Marauders will be posted on Sunday.