Churchill perfect on Day 1 at OFSAA
The host Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs were a perfect 3-0 in pool play Monday after the first day of the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations AA girls volleyball championships.
The second-seeded Bulldogs opened with a 2-1 (20-25, 25-17 and 15-8) victory over 18th-seeded Branksome and then recorded a 2-0 sweep (25-10 and 25-14) versus 15th-seeded King City and a 2-0 win (25-15 and 25-19) over fifth-seeded Streetsville.
“It is a big tournament and it is OFSAA and I think they were a little bit nervous,” Churchill head coach Brent Mergl said. “That team did a great job and they didn’t make it easy but I am proud of how the girls responded.”
Churchill shook off the jitters and the Bulldogs completed their day with the win over Streetsville.
“The girls came with a lot of energy and ready to play and they executed exactly what we wanted for our game plan.”
Mergl is looking forward to Day 2 of the event.
“We took care of everything we needed to do today and Day 1 was exactly how we scripted it. We are very happy with how we stand right now.”
Helping Churchill achieve that standing was the play of Grade 12 libero Aaliyah Alfieri.
“Aaliyah was a left side when she came in in Grade 9 and she came up with us to SOSSA (Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association) in Grade 9 to serve,” Mergl said. “She has gotten better and better and she has worked really hard at her position. There was a lot of training outside doing one-on-one stuff and her confidence has been growing every game.
“She played fantastic today.”
The 17-year-old is thrilled with the chance to play at OFSAA in her home gym.
“Oh my gosh. It is the best experience ever. Mergl and (Tammy) Short worked so hard just so we can experience this.”
It has been a long time coming for Alfieri.
“In my Grade 9 year, I got the privilege to go to SOSSA with the Grade 12s but unfortunately there were too many girls on the team and I was a junior so I couldn’t go to OFSAA and experience that with them,” she said. “And then, of course, COVID got in the way, so to have this experience and have them sacrifice everything for us is so incredible. I am so thankful to be here.”
She has worked hard to become a key player on the team.
“I train with Iron Performance Centre and I go there three to four times a week. I do one to two lifts with my team and three separate ones on my own.”
She is also a member of a Niagara Rapids travel team.
“There is a practice every morning at 7:30 and some days are double days so I will have practice or training afterwards. But I fit it in and I balance my schoolwork and make sure it all gets done.”
It is a lot of work but she loves playing volleyball for her high school.
“It is just as important as travel. I have such a connection with all these girls and they make me feel like family,” she said. “I don’t think I have ever been so close to a team before. They are my everything.”
Other than the slow start, Alfieri was pleased with her team’s opening day.
“We came in with an energy and then as soon as we got on the court, it was like everything froze. We were a little scared but I think we worked out the nerves the first game. The second set we were kind of ourselves, we had better energy and we worked out all the nerves.”
Pool play continues Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Churchill, E.L. Crossley, Governor Simcoe and St. Catharines Collegiate. The championship quarter-finals will be played at all four sites at 6 p.m.