For the first time in school history, both St. Mary Marauder volleyball teams are 5A provincial champions.
For the Marauder girls, they captured provincial glory on home court, downing the Swift Current Ardens in two sets, 25-20 and 25-15.
Head coach Shaun Hunko says the provincial championship win was a culmination of experience that the team had gained over several years.
“It’s surreal for sure. One of the big things we focused on this year was just to build off those experiences [from] last year and the year before, and even the year before that. and just use those experiences, learn from them and apply to them to this year. We were able to do that, and I think just having that experience this year helped so much.”
Last season, the Marauder girls made it all the way to the provincial final before falling to Saskatoon Holy Cross. St. Mary featured seven Grade 12s on the roster this year that were a part of that provincial runner up team in 2022 including Cassidy Schrader, Maya Bowden, Lisette Mourot, Heidi Regnier, Haley DeBack, Sydney Batiuk and Jayden Soles.
Hunko says that the core of Grade 12 players was crucial to the team all season long.
“We got the veteran leadership. They’re skilled. They’re physical and they’ve got the experience. And it’s just all those traits that you want, especially in a provincial final. I’m really proud of them.”
The Marauders faced adversity early in the match, as they were down by as many as three points to the Ardens in the first set. Hunko says St. Mary never panicked when the momentum was not on their side early in the match.
“Sometimes it’s not always going to be the cleanest and there were nerves at the start. But we relied on that experience. Being in this situation last year, I feel like we knew how to handle things a bit better this year.”
Maya Bowden, one of the Grade 12 players for St. Mary says it was extremely memorable for her to win the provincial championship with the Marauders.
“We were more prepared, just older and just better. Last year, we almost won and this year we really wanted to win. It was just really special.”
Lisette Mourot was emotional with the fact that her high school volleyball career has come to a close, but she says winning the provincial championship on home court is something she will never forget.
“You’re so happy that you won, but it’s so sad because it’s all over. I’ve been on this team three years and this is it. It’s just the end, which is just crazy. After going through so much all these years, it’s just scary.”
“We’ll remember it forever. You can’t not remember something with so much emotions in it. I’ll carry this win forever.”
Boys win three set thriller to capture provincial crown
While the Marauder girls were celebrating their victory, the boys were locked in an intense final match against the Swift Current Colts at Carlton’s CPAC gymnasium.
Swift Current entered the match as the two-time defending provincial champions and defeated St. Mary in a provincial semi-final on their way to the title in 2022.
Marauder boys head coach Rene Quintal says it wasn’t an easy path to the final for St. Mary and that it was a very memorable provincial tournament.
“It’s just an incredibly surreal experience. We had a really good group of individual students here, worked hard all year to work toward our common goal. We knew at the start of the season that this was a definite possibility. The tournament itself was a lot of parody. I thought all ten teams had a chance to be the champions. There were no easy matches at all throughout the weekend, so we’re very happy that we went undefeated and won all our matches.”
St. Mary would take the first set 25-19, while Swift Current rallied to take the second set by a score of 25-22.
The third set provided all the dramatics you would expect from a provincial final going into a winner-take-all final set, with the Marauders coming out on top 16-14.
Quintal says it was the first time the Marauders had to score more then 15 points to take a third set in a provincial final.
“It was just elation. We were down 9-5 in the third set. We came back, we were down 14-12. There was a replay on a point, we won that point and we ended up winning 16-14. That’s the first time in our 12 provincial championships at our school that we’ve had a 16-14 game in the third set.”
In terms of size, the Marauder boys were never a physically dominant volleyball team. Quintal says a lot of credit should be given to how St. Mary played defensively throughout the season.
“Our spike defense was the best it’s been all year. I thought our libero, Mannix Mourot, did a phenomenal job just following the defensive game plan and extending rallies, getting the first contact high in the air so we can get a good set and transition.”
Speaking post-game, Mourot, one of only three Grade 12 players on the team, says the fact that the Marauders had won the provincial championship still hadn’t fully sunk in.
“It doesn’t feel real, honestly. It was all a blur at the start, it’s just awesome. I can’t really explain it.”
Carson McGregor, another graduating player, says it was a great feeling to finish out his high school career on top.
“It feels so good to have this medal around my neck on the last game I’ll ever play in high school volleyball. It feels unreal, after two years playing on the senior team.”
After the celebration of the girl’s gold medal match, players and spectators from both Swift Current and St. Mary gathered around the televisions set up outside the gym at St. Mary to watch the boy’s final as captured in this video shared by St. Mary principal Dwayne Gareau on Twitter.