Vikings complete provincial sweep with back-to-back banner wins
The Gill Memorial Vikings officially control the A volleyball scene in Newfoundland and Labrador.
© Photo courtesy John Abbott
VIKING STRENGTH — Members of the provincial A gold-medal winning Gill Memorial Vikings include: (front, from left) Hillary Hicks, Hiliary Croucher; (middle) Kendra Dyke, Lacey Abbott; (back) Taylor Hicks, Sarah Hicks, Marina Abbott, Leah Whiteway, Chanel Barrett, Tyra Burry, and head coach John Abbott.
A week after the male Vikings won the provincial A volleyball banner in Conne River, the female Vikings did the same by winning provincial A gold at Christ the King School in Rushoon, Dec. 2-3.
The girls competed in a division against the Holy Name of Mary High School Mustangs of Lawn, St. Mary's All-Grade Wolves of Mary's Harbour, and the Eric G. Lambert Huskies of Churchhill Falls.
The girls swept through the round robin with a 3-0 record, and defeated the Main River Academy Warriors of Polard's Point, who finished second in its division, in the semifinal to advance to the gold-medal game against the Bishop White All-Grade Barons of Port Rexton.
The scores were close, but the Vikings earned provincial gold with a straight-set 25-20, 25-23 win.
For Grade 12 power hitter Hiliary Croucher, the entire gold-medal experience was an emotional one.
"Just because it's my last one, really," said Croucher. "The whole game was one big emotional ride, really, knowing you're never going to get there again. After the game was over, all I could think of was, I couldn't have asked for a better team to finish my school career with. Everyone on the team had great all-round sportsmanlike attitudes, and everybody had amazing hearts."
However, the Barons nearly upset the Vikings in the second set, and narrowly missed sending Croucher, and fellow Grade 12 player Marina Abbott, home without a provincial banner in their last year of high school volleyball.
The Barons actually led by five points late in the second set when head coach John Abbott called a time out.
According to Croucher, the head coach wasn't smiling when they got to the bench.
"We were down 21-16 in the second set, but came back to win 25-23," said Croucher. "Mr. Abbott called a timeout, and he wasn't too happy with the way we were playing because we weren't playing our game. We went back on the court, put up a nice pass, and our setter put the ball up to our power, and Leah (Whiteway) put it away. It turned around right there."
Although it was Abbott's message during the timeout that led the girls back to championship form, it was the play of their defence that got them there in the first place.
“The whole game was one big emotional ride, really, knowing you’re never going to get there again.” Hiliary Croucher
The team has relied on its defence heavily all season long, and Croucher said it didn't disappoint at provincials.
"It was definitely defence, as always," said Croucher. "We have a lot of younger girls on the team, but their defence was right on, and everybody did a great job of covering for everyone else, and picking up on mistakes."
While speaking to The Beacon last week about the provincial win, Croucher talked about how the male Vikings set the bar for the girls, and how the girls were determined to do what their male counterparts did just a week before.
According to the power hitter, the girls knew what they would be in for if they didn't come home with the provincial banner.
"Before the start of the gold-medal game, I remember the team talking about how the boys won their banner, and if we came back without our banner, they'd definitely rub it in our face (laughs)," said Croucher.
Having two provincial winning teams under one roof means a lot to Croucher, to the school, and even the community.
The feat proves the school is home to dedicated coaches, who pass their wisdom down to athletes who want to listen.
"It just shows how good our coaches are, and how much time the coaches and players put into practices," said Croucher. "Not only is the accomplishment good for the school, but it's also good for the entire community, because they always support the volleyball program. Winning two provincial banners shows all of the hardwork paid off."
As for Croucher, who was advised by a Memorial University Sea-Hawk at provincials to play volleyball at MUN next year, she'll fondly remember her time at Gill Memorial Academy. She'll always remember this year's banner, and another one that will always have a special place in her heart.
"Winning provincials this year, and winning provincials with (former head coach) Mr. Gerald Wheeler in his last year at the school," said Croucher. "That was a special one, too."