The St. Thomas Tommies volleyball team hit the road for the ACAA playoffs tournament in Sackville this weekend. They came home one banner richer.
After a nearly perfect season record of 11-1 the team were the favourites to win at the top of the standings. Picking up Coach of the Year, Francis Duguay was looking to lead his team to a third championship game and second title since taking over the job three years ago.
Game one had the first-place Tommies taking on the forth-place squad, Les Dragons de Université Saint-Anne. Warming to the host Mount Allison Gym, the Tommies took a few points before gaining their flow. Then the offense really heated up for the Tommies. With a massive 20-4 run, the Tommies jumped to a 21- 8 lead and never looked back taking the first set easily 25-10.
Les Dragons struggled to contain the heavy hitting offense of the Tommies once again in the second set. League MVP Tanner Sullivan stood tall for his team in his final year, picking up most of their points. But his efforts weren’t enough to mount a solid challenge from his side. Les Dragons were also missing their starting setter who sprained his ankle in their last meeting with STU, forcing the team to adapt quick for the tournament.
With the knee injury of veteran player and team leader Will Rochlow on the bench, Stephane Blinn stepped out of his comfort zone to play middle in the set. More power offense and sheer dominance from the Tommies pushed them to another 25-10 win.
“This is it. This is a game we don’t want to push to four [sets]. This is what you wanted so go get it,” said Duguay to his team in the huddle between sets.
His team responded well. The set was the closest of the match, with USA keeping within four points for most of the third. STU finished strong and finished off Les Dragons de Université Saint-Anne in the third set 25-15, pushing them to the finals on Sunday.
In a similar semi-final, the Holland College Hurricanes topped the Saint John Seawolves in a 3-0 set win and stapled their spot in the finals.
With the final set, the Tommies looked to upset the Hurricanes for the third playoff game in a row and take the ACAA title.
St. Thomas picked up from where they left off in the semi-final, controlling most of the offensive play in the first set. Holland was staying close in the set, making most of their points off STU’s mistakes. Big hits and blocks from all players got the team and crowd fired up, as well as some acrobatic bump saves from libero Patrick Surrette. St. Thomas continued the set streak, taking the first set in their closest of the tournament 25-21.
The Tommies were firing on all cylinders in the second set and all the aspects of the team were clicking. Holland struggled on the defensive end, unable to answer the canon that was all-conference player Jason Cannon’s massive power hitting. Cannon hit a team-leading 13 kills, and won Player of the Game in the final.
With the STU bench fired up and pumping up the team with some entertaining antics, St. Thomas won the second set 25-14, putting them one step and one win closer to the ACAA title and a trip to nationals.
Proving they weren’t out of the match, Holland came out swinging and pushed to take their first slight lead of the game 6-7. This was the closest set for the Tommies and the biggest challenge of the tournament. But it wasn’t long before the Tommies stole the lead back.
“They want it more right now, we just have to reset the engines. Now let’s go,” said Duguay in a quick timeout. STU was back to its dominating ways.
Matt Grimshaw made some key blocks in the middle position and applied some offense when needed, while Franc Sirois added some of his own service aces to the team total.
In another close set, the Tommies found themselves on top again. With one final miss serve by Holland, the title was once again heading back to Fredericton.
After storming the court, the whole team celebrated this dominant win, the perfect playoffs and a record-breaking season.
The St. Thomas Tommies will now head to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to fight for the CCAA title on the national stage.