An eventful three days at the 2018 belairdirect OCAA Women’s Volleyball Championships at Centennial College, which featured many twists and turns, wrapped up Saturday night in a gold medal showdown between the Niagara Knights and the Humber Hawks.
The winner would advance to the 2018 CCAA Women’s Volleyball National Championship in Grande Prairie, AB, from March 7-10. This also marks a rematch of the 2016 OCAA Championships gold medal game.
This is Humber’s 15th straight appearance in the championship game and have won 10 OCAA titles in a row. The Hawks advanced to the finals with their semi-final victory over the St. Clair Saints in a gritty four sets (25-19, 18-25, 25-16, 25-23).
Nicole Collard was named Player of the Game for Humber after scoring 13 points on a team high five aces and game high three blocks while Breanna Golding led all scorers with 14 points on a game high 12 kills.
For Niagara, this year marks their fourth straight year with a provincial medal; however, they have not won a provincial title since 1970. Their journey began with two comeback five set victories in the crossover match against the Algonquin Thunder and the quarterfinals against the Fanshawe Falcons.
Niagara didn’t need to go the full five sets in yesterday’s semI-final, however, as they dominated the Sheridan Bruins in straight sets (25-23, 25-11, 25-16), with Rachel Rivers being named Player of the Game for the Knights, who led all scorers with 15 points on a game high six aces.
The gold medal game generated a lot of hype from Hawks and Knights fans but Humber took care of business, winning their 11th straight provincial title, beating Niagara in straight sets (25-22, 25-7, 25-20) at the Athletic and Wellness Centre.
“It never gets old. We always have new girls every year so it's always a new experience,” Hawks head coach Chris Wilkins said. “It's an amazing feeling. You never get tired of winning, that's for sure.”
The Hawks will now head to Grande Prairie, AB, to play in nationals. The only medal that Humber has won in the CCAA Championship was in 2016, when they won the bronze medal.
“We’ve got to have a solid effort from beginning to end. Winning a national championship is always tough; you need a little bit of luck, you need to get the right draw, you need to be prepared and ready to work,” Wilkins said. “Certainly, with this year’s team, we’re deeper than we’ve ever been and we got something special here. We’ll be ready for whoever we play in the first round.”
Meanwhile, the Knights finished with silver, their third in its program.
Alex Bartman was named Player of the Game for Humber, who had a game high 29 assists and two aces. Nicole Collard had 12 points on a game high four blocks while Kyla Wilkins had a game high 10 digs.
Breanna Golding led all scorers with 13 points on 12 kills and was named Tournament MVP.
“She's the best player in the league for a reason,” Wilkins said about Golding. “The scary part is that she's not even close to being as good as she's going to be.”
Natasha Desjardins was named Niagara’s Player of the Game and had seven points. Jordan Koslowski had a team high eight points while Melissa McFadden had a team high 20 assists and Ainsleigh Williams had eight digs.
Humber outpaced Niagara in kills (34-23), assists (32-21), digs (29-21) and blocks (8-4).
Both teams battled for the most part of the first set but it was the Knights who forced the Hawks to call timeout as they went up, 15-12. But Humber closed out the first set on a 13-7 run as they took the set, 25-22, after Golding’s fifth kill of the set. Desjardins also had five kills in the set for the Knights.
The Hawks then dominated the second set in what was easily their best set of the tournament as they started on a 10-3 run and continued their onslaught, in which the Knights had no answer for. Humber took the second set, 25-7.
“We didn’t sit back,” Wilkins said. “Today, we just asked the girls to go for it, (play loose), and see what happens.”
Determined not to lose in straight sets, the Knights fought tooth and nail with the Hawks and forced a timeout from Humber, going up 17-14 after an ace from Nicole Pirillo. But the Hawks responded with six straight points to take a 20-17 as Niagara forced to burn both of its timeouts.
After an attack error from Golding cut the Hawks lead to 21-20, Humber closed out the gold medal game with four straight points, capped off by a block from Collard, as they took the third set, 25-20, with their fans cheering on.
Nicole Collard (Middle, Humber Hawks)
Taylor Fitzgerald (Outside Hitter, St. Clair Saints)
Breanna Golding (Outside Hitter, Humber Hawks)
Jordan Koslowski (Outside Hitter, Niagara Knights)
Rachel Rivers (Outside Hitter/Setter, Niagara Knights)
Kyla Wilkins (Libero, Humber Hawks)
TOURNAMENT MVP: Breanna Golding (Outside Hitter, Humber Hawks)