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Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019
Lancers girls v-ball make first ever trip to OFSAA
by Randy Pascal

Scott Thomas could not have asked for a better send-off.

Over the course of the past few years, Thomas, along with legendary Cambrian College coach Dale Beausoleil, have helped transform the Lasalle Lancers into the powerhouse in the local boys high school volleyball ranks.

But with his pending departure to the east coast to pursue career goals looming large, Thomas managed to break new ground recently, helping guide the Lancers senior girls team to their first ever trip to OFSAA in school history.

An 0-4 record in their inaugural effort did little to dampen the spirit of coaches and players alike.

"I would have been surprised at the beginning of the season if you had told me we would be going to OFSAA," Thomas acknowledged, as his team prepared for the "AAA" tournament that was hosted this week in London.

"Midway through the season, we really started to pick things up, the girls have been very committed to being at practices." The turning point? A five set regular season win over the Confederation Chargers, the team that would eventually go on to secure the city title last month over the Lockerby Vikings.

"When we beat Confed, I thought, "this team has a chance at moving on"," said Thomas. While team defence was something of a work in progress, even through to the tail end of the 2017-2018 campaign, the improvement noted on the offensive side of the ball was critical to the team's success by the time NOSSA rolled around.

"We're not a very tall team, by any means, but we have a couple of girls who can really hit a ball hard when they get some vertical on them," noted Thomas. "And our setter, Symantha (Welsh - grade 10), she can really run the offense on her own."

"Last year was a little more of a struggle with the speed and the pace, but this year, with her club background, she has really stepped up." In fact, that statement holds true right across the board.

"Last year, I played a big role on the team as well, but I wasn't as confident as this year," noted power hitter Brooklynn Howard. "I wasn't a senior, and the seniors last year really helped me tremendously. This year, the team really supported me and that helped initiate my confidence."

"Brooklynn controlled the pace of the game in the NOSSA final," stated Thomas. "She was really mentally focused, so I just told our setter to keep giving her the ball, because she was on."

"At the beginning of the year, we didn't expect too much," Howard agreed. "We were down from losing at NOSSA last year, and we lost some really good players. As the season went on and we started winning, I think it just surprised everyone, and then we thought that we could actually do something."

Yet another one of the 17 year old grade 12 crew, libero Amanda Lawson sees her contribution as being equal parts motivator and defensive specialist. "I'm always the loudest player on the court," she said with pride. "It seems the more I talk, the more they talk."

"When my team is down, their body language changes. I like to be able to bring them back up. That's who I am - a loud, happy person." Of course, that's not to diminish the volleyball acumen she brings to her game.

"I'm very knowledgeable on the game, because you need to know where you are on the court," she said. "I'm probably more sport smart than school smart," she added with a laugh. "The mixture of different skills is what brings us together. We know our weaknesses, and we know our strong points."

And though they will have to be content with the experience that OFSAA provided, the Lancers will always look back fondly on a big NOSSA gold medal game win over the Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes.

"They were in the (NOSSA) final last year and lost, so we kind of had that experience," said Thomas. "The girls were more relaxed and calm than I have seen them before - and our grade 12s really stepped up. The key was not focusing on OFSAA."

Even if their trip to London was historical in nature, at least from the standpoint of the Lancers girls volleyball program.

The remainder of the Lasalle senior team is comprised of Hannah Ethier, Jena Ethier, Hailey Kitlar, Kiera LeBreton, Gabrielle Louie, Sheridan Munch, Jenna Seguin, Myah Walia and Lara Watson.

Lasalle Secondary actually completed a clean sweep at "AAA" volleyball, the juniors claiming the NOSSA banner with a lineup of Jorja Bast, Maisie Craig, Jordan Janakowski, Kaylynn Payette, Arianna Radey, Avery Shippam, Sydney Wachnuk, Jessica Walsh, Emma White and Hailey Wydra.

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