Jasper Place High School – The Bellerose Bulldogs finished the job they started last year in metro Edmonton high school volleyball.
“We did it! We’re the champions and it’s an unbelievable feeling,” said an overjoyed Daniel Ward, a robust Grade 12 power hitter and the team’s floor general, as the Bulldogs celebrated the first senior men’s volleyball championship since 2002 in the city conference after losing last year’s final to the Paul Kane Blues.
Tuesday’s banner-winning performance against the St. Francis Xavier Rams was a glorious moment of redemption for the Bulldogs.
“We were committed to winning it this year. It was our goal and we were very determined after losing to Paul Kane,” said Adam Wilkins, a staunch Grade 12 middle and one of six returning Bulldogs from the 7-3 team that bowed out in four sets to Paul Kane, who moved up into the division one ranks this year.
The lightning-fast 25-21, 25-22, 25-12 victory over the Rams ended the team’s championship drought and it was achieved in the post-merger of the metro and public Edmonton leagues.
“It’s pretty special. It’s been a long time. That’s why it means so much for the school and the players and the coaches,” Wilkins said.
“We wanted this pretty bad,” Ward added. “Nothing was going to stop us.”
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com to view the team’s championship banner picture.
The Bulldogs finished 12-1 (37 GW/9 GL) and the only loss was 18-25, 25-23, 20-25, 22-25 against the host M.E. Lazerte Voyageurs (10-2) Oct. 16.
In the semifinals, the Rams (8-5, 29 GW/22 GL) upset Lazerte 25-20, 23-25, 26-24, 25-22.
“I was surprised it wasn’t Lazerte,” Ward said of the team’s opponent in the final. “But we were going to win no matter who we played.”
The Bulldogs returned to the championship match after bowling over the St. Albert Skyhawks 26-28, 25-14, 25-18, 25-15 in Monday’s playoff.
The Skyhawks (8-4, 28 GW/20 GL) put up a tougher fight in the Battle of St. Albert than what the Rams mustered in the final.
“I wouldn’t say that was our final,” said Wilkins of the team’s second win this season against the Skyhawks after the 25-18, 25-23, 25-16 sweep in league play Oct. 25 at Bellerose. “We were ready to play them and we were ready for these guys (Rams) too even though we thought Lazerte would be here.”
The Bulldogs swept the Rams 26-24, 25-21, 25-11 Oct. 2 at Bellerose and the rematch wasn’t even close.
“We were strong from start to finish,” Ward said of the seventh sweep and second of the playoffs. “The team played great.”
The Bulldogs never trailed in the first set while setting the tone with a six-point run to make it 13-4 as Ward’s ace produced the 13th point.
Ross Bishop spiked the floor to pad the lead to 15-7 as the Bulldogs started running up the score.
Wilkins produced points off blocks for leads of 20-10 and 22-16 and Bishop closed out the set with a thunderous block.
The second set was knotted at nine when the Bulldogs overwhelmed the Rams with nine consecutive points. Bishop and Ward were responsible for the first four with their bullish net presence and Bishop was also the server for the last eight points.
It was 18-12 when Ward’s spike and Wilkins’ block put the Bulldogs up by eight.
The terrific trio – Wilkins, Bishop and Ward – produced the last five points against the over-matched Rams.
The Bulldogs were in a playful mood in the third set while racking up leads of 8-1, 15-2 and 22-7.
The championship clincher was Ward’s serve that was too hot to handle.
“There was no stopping us,” said Ward, a 2016/17 metro Edmonton all-star who wore the captain’s strip in the final.
The Bulldogs rose to the challenge with everybody firing on all cylinders.
“It was a total team effort. We have great players and great coaches too,” Wilkins said.