Teams from Lorne Akins and École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d'Youville (ESSMY) faced off in both the girls' and boys' finals at the St. Albert Physical Education Council's annual junior high school volleyball tournament on the weekend.
The 2022 SAPEC tournament Sept. 23 and 24 brought together 32 junior high school volleyball teams from St. Albert, Sturgeon County, and Parkland County school divisions for a non-stop two days of volleyball with trophies, and bragging rights, on the line.
In this year's girls' final on Sept. 24, Lorne Akins toppled ESSMY in two straight sets thanks to a dominant performance by the team's co-captain Maria Deleeuw.
“[Deleeuw] brings a different vibe to the court, for sure," Lorne Akins co-coach Stephanie Faught said after the game.
“It’s calming for the rest of the girls,” said the team's other coach Ken Bishop about Deleeuw's on-court presence.
Deleeuw served up four straight points to close out the second and game-winning set for Lorne Akins.
"It’s a great group of girls, they put a lot of effort in," said Bishop. "We’re happy for them.
"They want to play for one another and they enjoy being with one another,” Bishop said.
“It shows on the court,” said Faught.
Lorne Akins went undefeated on the road to victory, as they beat teams from W.D. Cuts, Gibbons, and Spruce Grove's Greystone Centennial Middle School in round-robin play.
Lorne Akins beat École Alexandre-Taché in the quarter finals before they squeaked out a victory against W.D. Cuts in the semi-finals. The third and deciding set in the semi-finals was won by only three points.
Both coaches agreed the team's big goal this season is to play in, and win, the league championship.
“They’re young and determined,” Faught said.
ESSMY gets revenge
The boys' final on Sept. 24 also featured teams from Lorne Akins and ESSMY vying for the trophy, with ESSMY coming out on top.
ESSMY co-coach Darren Hall said the tournament win was a true team effort.
"I was so impressed with the team, with how everyone was supporting all the other players,” Hall said. "The boys really worked their butts off, so it felt really good.
“ESSMY’s never been known as a big athletic school," he said. "For so many years it kind of felt like we were put to the side, and it’s just nice to see the success of our program on the up-and-up.”
On their way to victory the ESSMY boys suffered just one loss, which came against Westlock's R.F. Staples Secondary School in round-robin play.
In their other two round-robin games, ESSMY defeated Richard S. Fowler in straight sets and Elmer S. Gish in a match that could have gone either way.
In the quarter finals ESSMY toppled Sturgeon County, and in the semi-finals they beat Vincent J. Maloney.
With so many games over the course of just two days, Hall said a big part of winning the tournament was making sure the players didn't burn out.
“We made sure to use our timeouts during the games," Hall said. "Even in our final game there I had a few of them that had played quite a bit, they were absolutely exhausted.
"You could see it in their face, but they wanted it so bad they kept battling.”
The ESSMY boys aren't going to settle with just one tournament victory, Hall said. The team wants a banner to hang in the school's gym.
"I know that they want that," Hall said. "The boys asked me after yesterday, ‘Do we get a banner in the gym?'"
As winning the SAPEC tournament does not include a banner, the ESSMY boys will need to carry their early-season momentum all the way to the league finals later this year.