Bulldogs sweep Cyclone in SOSSA volleyball final
Alissa Landry arrived at Sir Winston Churchill as an all-around volleyball player with an expertise in libero.
In her last year of high school, the 18-year-old has found a role as the setter on the senior girls team.
“We had another setter and we bounced back and forth between the two but she worked hard and earned the spot as the starting setter,” Churchill head coach Brent Mergl said. “She usually runs a really good offence and she takes charge out there.”
There were a number of factors that saw Landry cement her status as the team’s starting setter.
“It was her confidence, her believe in herself and the girls were responding to her,” Mergl said.
Landry started played travel volleyball with the Niagara Rapids when she was 10 before joining the Defensa Volleyball Club. She decided this year to not play travel ball.
“It was my last year of high school and I wasn’t planning to play in the future so I just decided to focus on high school,” she said Monday, after Churchill defeated the Dundas Valley Gryphons 3-1 in the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association AA semifinals at Churchill.
The Grade 12 student would love to end her high school career with a flourish.
“We have a really good team with girls from everywhere and I wanted to end my last year with a really good team. I have been close to all these girls for a really long time.”
That friendship and familiarity is crucial on the volleyball court.
“Part of the reason why we are good is because we are so close. We have known each other since elementary school.”
In addition to being a setter, Landry brings veteran leadership to the Bulldogs.
“I want to play for my team, I want to encourage everybody and I want everyone else to do well. That’s my role.”
She is looking forward to playing in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships, being hosted March 6-8 by Churchill.
“It’s cool. We are in OFSAA no matter what but we are looking to earn our spot.”
Getting one final crack at OFSAA is great considering last year’s OFSAA was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was disappointing. We had a really good team last year too. I am excited for this year,” Landry said.
After this year, she is planning to attend either Niagara College or Brock.
Mergl is excited to see how the rest of the season plays out after the Bulldogs won the SOSSA title with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-15 and 25-22) sweep of the E.L. Crossley Cyclone.
“I knew we were going to be strong, I just didn’t know if we would be as strong as we are,” he said. “We are a good team when we are on, playing our game and running our offence. We’re a good hitting team and we block well but sometimes we get caught up a bit in the mental game.”
Mergl likes how his team has progressed this season.
“We needed two of the Grade 11s (Gabrielle Bright-Buffong and Mya Pupek) to step up and they stepped up. We find players and we will go as far as those players will take us. We know everybody else is going to do their job.”
Churchill hasn’t won any tournaments this season but lost in the finals at the Dr. Frank Hayden Tournament in London.
“We did well there and I thought we were going to be a little bit better than I thought,” Mergl said. “We have lots of height and when we are on our game and mentally focussed we are a very solid, tough team to beat.”
Mergl was less than pleased with how his squad looked in its 3-1 (25-11, 25-19, 22-25 and 25-21) victory over Dundas Valley. The Bulldogs blew a late lead in the third game and were trailing the fourth game 7-1 before getting their act together and closing out the match.
“They kind of let their foot off the gas and they were hoping to win as opposed to going out and winning the game. They were hoping the other team would give to us but hats off to Dundas,” Mergl said. “They fought and scrapped the whole time to stay alive. They pushed us right to the end and our girls panicked a little bit.”
Members of the Churchill team are Aaliyah Alfieri, Megan Barker, Bright-Buffong, Samantha Cormier, Josie Hoadley, Brooklyn Keltos, Landry, Renette Mahrouse, Pupek, Charlotte Ross, Erin Short, Kate Smyth and Suzzana Toussaint.
Zone 3 champion E.L. Crossley advanced to the SOSSA final with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-15 and 25-16) victory over the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association champion Holy Cross Raiders.
Crossley and Dundas Valley will play a challenge match Tuesday to see who earns the second SOSSA bid at OFSAA.