The St. Thomas University volleyball teams went into championship weekend looking to capture Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association titles on their home court Feb. 23 to 25.
Women’s championship game
Both of the St. Thomas University volleyball teams were in action Sunday afternoon coming off big semfinal wins the day before. The women’s competed in the ACAA finals first, taking on the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics.
The women’s team came up short, losing in three straight sets to the Mystics. Set scores were 25-21, 25-21 and 25-19.
The two teams went into the game having played each other twice this season, the Mystics coming out victorious in both matchups. They looked to finish their incredible season off with a win, having a 21-1 regular season record and win their seventh straight ACAA championship. St. Thomas came in with momentum, coming off a semifinal upset against the second place Holland Hurricanes.
The Tommies would struggle early in the first set, getting down several points before starting a run, pulling the set within five and forcing the Mystics to call a timeout. They were unable to complete the comeback, eventually losing the set 25-21.
The second set was a battle as the Tommies and Mystics exchanged points to start off. MSVU would then take a big lead, leading to another 25-21 set win.
With momentum in the Mystics’ favour, St. Thomas continued to battle hard in front of their fans. Clarie Richard lead the way for the Tommies with nine kills, Deidra Jones behind her with seven. Jasmine Smith lead the way for the Mystics with 15. But STU was unable to make a comeback, losing the set 25-19. The Mystics celebrated their championship victory on the Tommies’ ground, but the Tommie fans cheered hard for the St. Thomas.
Men’s championship game
The men’s team would play next, hoping for a different result. They went up against the defending champions, the Holland College Hurricanes who had a season record of 14-3. The teams had met five times in the regular season, Holland taking four of the five wins.
“Holland is a tremendous team,” said head coach Henri Mallet.
“[They are] well coached by Joe Ryan and got some key guys.”
The game started off with teams exchanging points, going back and forth. The Tommies jumped to a quick 7-3 lead before Holland would tie it at seven. STU would win the set 26-24, the final point coming off an attack error by the Hurricanes.
The second set started off the same until the Tommies started to take off, grabbing a 20-15 lead. Josh Dorey would end the set with a kill, giving STU a 25-20 set win.
Holland would not go away, however, starting the third set off with a quick lead and taking the set 25-19.
STU started the fourth set off with fire, taking the first five points of the set. From there, they would not look back, as ACAA rookie of the year Christian Christie would get the final kill to end the match and put the Tommies back on top of the ACAA, as the Tommies took the set 25-16.
The Tommie fans rushed onto the court to celebrate with the team.
“It feels amazing … when you work for such a long season and end up with a championship, there’s no better feeling,” said Mallet.
“It’s been a journey all year … the guys were relaxed and executed and played their game and it payed off.”
Women’s quarterfinal and semifinal games
The women’s team played first to start the weekend. Heading into the quarterfinals with a 17-6 regular season record, they took on the University of Kings College Blue Devils. The Tommies came away with a win, sweeping the Blue Devils.
The game started off slow, as both teams had a few unforced errors. The game would pick up, as the two teams competed hard, trading points. The Tommies escaped, barely taking the set 25-23, despite being down five at one point. St. Thomas started the second set off strong, taking a quick 3-0 lead, eventually taking the set 25-18.
“Once we’re on a roll, we’re awfully tough to beat,” said Tommies’ head coach Don McKay.
The Tommies would prove their coach right in the third, as strong serving took away the Blue Devils’ momentum, as St. Thomas would complete the game with a 25-11 set win.
Jones won the Player of the Game for the Tommies, finishing with 11 kills. Richard had 13 of her own.
The semifinals took place on Feb. 24, with the women playing first, taking on the Holland College Hurricanes.
The women’s team would advance into the finals in dramatic fashion, taking the Hurricanes to five sets. Set scores were 25-19, 27-29, 25-20, 21-25, and 15-8. Richard and Jones lead the way with 18 kills each.
“It wasn’t so much pressure [in the fifth set],” said McKay.
The Tommies were in the same situation in their last matchup with the Hurricanes but were unable to take that game. McKay was more prepared this time around.
“I made a couple changes in the line up. I put Deidra upfront instead of serving so she could come across the front and have three big swings,” said McKay.
“We have a lot of leaders … We’ve done a wonderful job in encouraging them to challenge each other and they do that, but they also respect each other.”
Men’s semifinal game
The men’s team kept the momentum going later in the evening, taking on their rivals, the University of New Brunswick Saint John Seawolves.
With fans from each side having their own battle, the Tommies swept the Seawolves. Each set was hard fought, set scores being 25-19, 27-25 and 32-30.
The Tommies would lead 24-18 in the second set but a late push by the Seawolves would eventually have the scored tied at 24. Christie would come through with a big kill to give STU a 26-25 lead before winning the set.
“[Christie] is definitely one of our key guys,” said Mallet.
“It’s a learning process and I think he’s going to be a great player … This was one of his best games and that’s what good players do, they step up their game in big moments.”
Christie lead his team with 14 kills, Garret Dickson right behind him with nine. Dickson also had nine blocks.
The Tommies will had to Victoria, B.C. to represent the ACAA at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships happening March 7 to 10.