A bronze medal was on the line as the final day of the 2018 belairdirect OCAA Women’s Volleyball Championships continued with a matchup between the Sheridan Bruins and the St. Clair Saints.
The Bruins looked to advance to the gold medal game but ran into a red-hot Niagara Knights team and fell in straight sets (23-25, 11-25, 16-25). Tara Aune led Sheridan with nine points on a game-high eight kills and was named the Player of the Game for the Bruins.
For the Saints, they endured four hard-fought sets against the undefeated Humber Hawks but ultimately fell to them (19-25, 25-18, 16-25, 23-25) for the second straight year in the semis. Julie Ann Milling was named Player of the Game for the Saints after a game-high 17 digs while Taylor Fitzgerald led St. Clair with 11 points on a game-high six aces.
Both teams are looking to win a medal for the first time in over 20 years as St. Clair (1996-97) and Sheridan’s (1997-98) last medals were of the gold and bronze variety, respectively. The Saints, in particular, had an opportunity to medal last year as hosts in the bronze medal game but ultimately fell to the Niagara Knights in five sets (22-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-23, 12-15).
Four points away from losing in the bronze medal game in straight sets, St. Clair rallied back to force a fourth set and a fifth set. This time, though, the Saints completed the comeback as they defeated the Bruins in five sets (20-25, 27-29, 25-22, 25-22, 15-8), winning the bronze medal and a medal overall for the first time in 21 years.
“It feels amazing. I’m so proud of how we battled,” Saints head coach Jimmy El-Turk said as he fought back tears. “It would have been so easy for us to give up, not playing well down two sets, but the girls found a way.”
Kimberley Quintanilla was masterful today with a game-high six aces and 42 assists and was named St. Clair’s Player of the Game. Quintanilla had four aces during the decisive set, including the final point of the match.
“She’s been our rock and our best server this season,” El-Turk said. “She started off the tournament serving great and for her to serve ace on match point was very fitting.”
Te-Anna Stephenson led all scorers with 24 points on a game-high 22 kills while Julie Ann Milling had 12 digs and Jessica Masse had a game-high three blocks.
“For her to be able to contribute the way that she did offensively is amazing and I’m so happy to have her on (our) team,” El-Turk said about Stephenson.
Tamia Cooper-Evelyn was named Sheridan’s Player of the Game after scoring a team-high 18 points on 13 kills and four aces. Joelle Parnham and Sydney Romans each had a game-high 16 digs while Parnham dished out a team-high 32 assists.
St. Clair outpaced Sheridan in kills (47-37), assists (45-35), digs (72-48), and blocks while the Bruins had a slight edge in aces (15-14).
Sheridan burst out of the gates quickly, scoring five straight points to start off the set and continued to maintain that lead throughout despite Stephenson scoring seven points on six kills during the set alone. The Bruins had five aces during the first set as they took the set, 25-20.
Sheridan continued to control the pace of the game in the second set, as they scored four straight points to break a 5-5 tie, forcing a Saints timeout.
But St. Clair responded, chipping away and eventually using three straight points to tie the set at 14 after a kill from Fitzgerald, forcing the Bruins to call a timeout of their own. Neither team managed to pull off a set changing run as they split the next 26 total points as the set went to extra points, tied at 27.
But a service error from Chloe Stachow and a kill from Cooper-Evelyn gave Sheridan the second set, 29-27, and a two-set lead for the first time in the tournament.
The Bruins continued to put the pressure on the Saints, as they scored three straight, capped off by a kill and block from Taylor Ley to go up 10-7, forcing St. Clair to call a timeout.
The Saints responded with three straight points after the timeout but Sheridan then went on a 5-0 run, capped off by consecutive aces from Dana Renfrew as El-Turk was forced to use his final timeout.
But the Saints pulled off six straight points, taking advantage of five Bruins errors to tie the set at 18. A kill from Stephenson capped off a 3-0 run as St. Clair forced a fourth set, winning 25-22.
Both teams traded runs early in the fourth set but Sheridan broke the set open with a 9-3 run as St. Clair used both of their timeouts during that span. The Saints, however, came all the way back again to tie the set at 17 after an attack error from Ley.
The Bruins were up 21-19 and were four points away from winning bronze but the Saints forced a fifth set, winning 25-22 after ending the set on a 6-1 run.
Quintanilla’s service game was on full display as she hit three straight aces to start off the set and the Saints never looked back as they won the fifth set, 15-8, sending the team and their fans into a frenzy.
“We’re on track for our five-year plan here, it helps us with recruiting, and I can see us in the gold medal game within the next couple of seasons,” El-Turk said.
St. Clair’s Taylor Fitzgerald was named one of five tournament All-Stars playing solid throughout all 3 games and coming through with key passes, serves and kills at keys points in all three matches.
“Our will as a group was greater than the road ahead of us down 2-0 and 15-10 in the third set,” stated El-Turk. “Our group relied on their experience from heartbreak last year being down 2-0 and coming back just to fall short and lose. We used the experience to will us to our first medal in 21 seasons. It was a huge character win. We’re on track for our five-year plan here, it helps us with recruiting, and I can see us in the gold medal game within the next couple of seasons.”