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Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2018
Evening of Excellence marks the end of an era
by Randy Pascal

Twelve years in, it was time to turn the page for the Northern Chill Volleyball Club. There is no doubt that the absence of both Michael Margarit, the only president the Club has ever known, and long-time coach Craig Thomson, will be felt moving forward.

Along with fellow volleyball coach Eric Laberge, the trio formed the very genesis of the Chill at a relatively informal meeting some thirteen years ago. Yet it was crystal clear, at the 2017 Evening of Excellence was hosted this past Tuesday at the Caruso Club, that the organization is poised, more than at any other time in their history, to move forward come the start of the 2017-2018 season.

“The biggest reason is the quality of people that we have in the organization, from athletes to coaches to parents,” said Margarit at the end of the night. “You heard multiple people touch on culture and family and process tonight. Those are really important components of how we do things.”

“When you have that permeating your entire membership, it makes it easier to know that the next group of leaders are sitting in the room.” Nowhere was that more evident than with the collection of girls who were feted at the year-end banquet that gathered 79 athletes representing seven different teams.

One had to look no further than 13U representative Rory Frantz, who already displays a keen ability to narrow her focus at critical times of the game. “Whenever I go to hit the ball, I just take a deep breath,” she said. “Nothing else is in my mind except for doing what I’m about to do. My mind is just clear when I play volleyball, I love to play.”

With the core of her team enjoying their second year with the Club, Frantz noted a tangible difference in the manner in which team chemistry was built through the benefit of a previous season of play together.

“Last year, since it was our first year playing volleyball, we were just really nervous and afraid to talk to each other,” said the recipient of the One to Watch award. “This year, we were a family, we all started talking right away. We were able to make jokes, even if we messed up on the court.”

It was a sentiment that was echoed by 16U middle Ryann Hudson, recognized with the prestigious Chill Award. “I think I grew as a person and grew with my team as well,” she said. “Last year, I wasn’t super close with all of the girls. Now, they’re all my best friends.”

“I don’t focus on the physical part so much,” Hudson added. “I focus on working with my team and putting in the maximum effort that I can.” In volleyball, perhaps more than other sports, that team aspect is critical. There is little to no chance of any of the six players on the court going “coast to coast”, or from “goal line to goal line” as they might in other sports.

“It just relies so much on trust,” noted Hudson. “You really have to work together to get the points. It can’t just be all one person.” And in the case of the 18U Chill, that remaining assembly of teammates was a relatively small one, with only eight young women on their roster, a number that has been relatively stable these past few years.

All of which makes the graduating year that much more difficult for Player of the Year Taylor Wilkinson, who leaves to study Kinesiology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia come the fall. “It was an honour to play for this club, every second of it, every practice, every tournament,” she said.

“Because our team is so small, we’ve just become so close.” And with the finish line in sight, Wilkinson found herself drawn to expanding the role she played within this tight-knit unit. “This year, I focused on sharing with my team to help benefit them, I gave myself to the team more than ever. Being a setter, you see the game differently.”

“I watch the other side of the court a lot, so I could tell my teammates what parts of the court are open, where they might want to hit, when they might want to tip.” The fact that the Chill could offer up a seemingly never ending supply of well-spoken athletes, about to communicate with ease their thoughts about their team, their club, came as little surprise to the man who has guided the group through its initial infancy.

“I’m just really proud of the sense of family, the people in this room,” stated Margarit. “It really struck me when the teams were doing their presentations to their coaches. That was a collection of some of the most well composed thoughtful words I have ever heard from a group of young people over the years. Even at a young age, they get it.”

And as for a legacy, to this point, Margarit was quick to shift the question, just a smidge. “I don’t think in terms of legacy, because to me, legacy is when you’re done, and we’re not done,” he said. “But our collective impact was to create a culture where players want to be, in a positive and nurturing environment, where they come in as raw athletes and we help them realize their potential, and that they leave as better athletes, but more importantly, better people, ready to take on the next phase of their life.”

Award winners for the various teams were:

12U Chill
Coaches Award – Alexie Chicoine
Most Improved Player – Emma Harris
Most Improved Player – Kayla Bouffard
Fitness Award – Shana Lessard

13U Chill
Coaches Award – Kayla Presley
Most Improved Player – Erin Wiseman
Most Improved Player – Emma Vaillancourt
Fitness Award – Rory Frantz

14U Chill
Coaches Award – Faith Charbonneau
Most Improved Player – Kyla Parsons
Most Valuable Player – Fysher McQueen
Fitness Award – Emily Ayotte

15U Chill
Coaches Award – Symantha Welsh
Most Improved Player – Hailey Selk
Most Improved Player – Emma Squires
Fitness Award – Erika Brown

16U Chill
Coaches Award – Dara Desrochers
Most Improved Player – Isabella Adams
Most Valuable Player – Genevieve Gauthier
Fitness Award – Ryann Hudson

17U Chill
Coaches Award – Christina Rorison
Coaches Award – Tasha Gervais
Most Improved Player – Alison Labrash
Fitness Award – Becca Hopkins

18U Chill
Coaches Award – Emilie Laberge
Coaches Award – Teri Patrick
Most Valuable Player – Taylor Wilkinson
Fitness Award – Teri Patrick

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