Bulldogs bring home the bronze
The Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs senior girls volleyball team rebounded from a disappointing 3-1 (25-20, 12-25, 24-26 and 22-25) loss to Thomas A. Blakelock in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations AA girls volleyball semifinals by winning the bronze medal.
The second-seeded host team took home the bronze by defeating top-seeded North Star 3-1 (25-21, 26-24, 22-25 and 25-17). Thomas A. Blakelock won the gold medal with a 3-0 sweep of Beatrice Desloges.
“It feels amazing. It is a great win and I love this team,” Megan Barker said, after the bronze medal victory.
The key was not to dwell on the semifinal loss.
“We have a really good group of girls and all of us work really hard together. We took a breather afterwards, met up and talked through it,” she said. “We put it straight behind us and we focused on the next game and that is how we ended up with the bronze. We worked together.”
The Bulldogs knew they weren’t at their best against Blakelock.
“We definitely could have won the semifinal game. We had a few errors and we let the nerves get to us. I know if we could have played our game we could have won it.”
For Barker, Sam Cormier, Brookelyn Keltos and Kate Smyth, it was the second OFSAA medal won in their home gym in the last four months. All four were starters on Churchill’s basketball team that won OFSAA AA gold.
“It’s amazing but I am coming for a few more. I’ve got badminton, ultimate, soccer and track,” Barker said.
Last year, Barker won OFSAA gold in badminton and silver in ultimate Frisbee.
“The guys on the ultimate team are the same group of guys cheering for us today. We are a big family at Sir Winston and I am very excited for what’s to come.”
The fan support the Bulldogs received from their ultimate teammates was much appreciated.
“The guys are amazing. That is our senior boys basketball team with a mix of a few other kids. We couldn’t ask for better fans,” the 18-year-old said.
Other members of the Churchill team are Aaliyah Alfieri, Gabby Bright-Buffong, Josie Hoadley, Alissa Landry, Renette Mahrouse, Mya Pupek, Charlotte Ross, Erin Short and Suzzana Toussaint.
Churchill head coach Brent Mergl was pleased with how his squad concluded OFSAA.
“The girls really dug deep and finished strong like we can. We started to play like the way we can. I always tell the girls that we have to drive the bus and when we’re not passing well we can’t run our offence. When we pass well, we can set up our offence and work perfectly.’
Mergl appreciated his team’s ability to put the semifinal loss behind it.
“We didn’t play well in the semis and the girls admitted to it. They got a little anxious in the one set and in the fourth set, there was a little bit of us not gelling as one,” he said. “We had a little meeting afterwards and we talked about how we had to stick together no matter what. I am so proud of them for bouncing back.”
It was thrill for all involved to win an OFSAA medal on their home court.
“It’s extra special and it doesn’t get any better. You could only get one thing better,” Mergl said, referring to OFSAA gold. “We really thought we were one of the better teams here and the bronze does show it. Talking to one of the assistant coaches I used to coach with, he believed that we were the best team but some days it just doesn’t happen.”
Grade 11 players Bright-Buffong and Pupek played major roles for the Bulldogs throughout the tournament.
“I think they were our better players on the court today. They made big passes and big hits when we needed them and next year looks good,” he said.
The Bulldogs will lose several starters to graduation but Mergl is confident he will have enough excellent squad at his disposal.
“We have juniors who will fill the holes and that will give them a limited responsibility. Those other ones will have to keep stepping up more now.”
The bronze medal was the first OFSAA podium finish in Mergl’s nine years at Churchill but the program has been excellent for a number of years.
“It all starts with the kids in Grade 9. Tammy (senior assistant Short) does such a good job at developing the skill and the kids buy into our culture of family and togetherness and they all support each other. By the time they come up to Grade 11, they have the skill set and I can teach the advanced stuff.”
The togetherness is evident everywhere.
“The kids buy into our whole team concept. It doesn’t matter of you are off the court or on. You’re as important and you could see the support that the fans gave and the cheers that the bench put together is so uplifting for the girls on the court,” Mergl said.
In AA consolation play, the E.L. Crossley Cyclone defeated King City 3-1 (25-20, 20-25, 25-18 and 30-28) in the semifinals and then London South 3-0 (25-18, 25-20 and 25-21) in the final.
At the OFSAA A championships, the eighth-seeded Saint-Jean-de-Brébeuf Lynx defeated Nouvelle Alliance 3-0 (25-8, 25-18 and 25-14) in the consolation semifinals and then lost 3-2 (25-14, 25-20, 22-25, 23-25 and 9-15) against Quinte in the final.