McGrath, Smith and Gauthier share top awards at banquet
by Randy Pascal
The Northern Chill Volleyball Club have hosted their Evening of Excellence year-end banquet each and every spring dating back to May of
2006. Brooke Smith, Samantha McGrath and the balance of their 18U team have been part of that celebration for anywhere from the past two to seven
editions of the event.
Somehow, despite that extended period of time, it still all seems like a bit of a blur.
"I thought about how fast the years have gone," noted Smith, recalling her pre banquet musings last week. "I started in grade seven, so I played 14U
twice. That feels like yesterday. Even high school is over now, and that feels like it went by so fast. You don't realize that when you're younger."
Now 17 years of age and preparing for her freshman year with the School of Architecture at Laurentian University, Smith carries with her
countless happy Chill-related recollections.
"My favourite thing about all of my volleyball years was playing with the same girls and having a great team bond," said the soon-to-be graduate of
Lockerby Composite. "Some of my favourite memories were about going away to tournaments, even nationals. Even the stuff outside of the court, going
to dinner together, and all of those memories."
The answers are eerily similar when McGrath is asked about the advice she would give the 12U Chill crew if allowed the opportunity to speak to them of
the voyage that lies ahead.
"I would tell them to enjoy every moment that they can, not take anything for granted," said the 18 year-old senior at Ecole Secondaire
Macdonald-Cartier. "Try and make as many friendships, relationships with your teammates as you can, because I find it helps a team succeed. Winning
isn't everything, but it's so much more fun to win."
For as much as the human element will always bond these teammates, there is simply no denying the matching combativeness within the group. "I think we
all share the same love and competitiveness for the game," said Smith.
"I think we took away one specific thing from each year. In 14U, it was the basics, 15U, how to really be a team, 16U, how to appreciate each other, 17U,
how to learn the game yourself, figure it out, and 18U was all about making it a great year."
That may or may not be the way that 12 year old Fannie Gauthier describes the road she has travelled come May of 2024. Gauthier was recognized as
"The One to Watch", an award presented to a younger Chill athlete who demonstrates the most potential to excel as they move forward in their
"This is my first year of playing club volleyball, but I used to play with my sister who is 17 (Chill graduate Geneviève Gauthier)," stated the
grade six student at Ecole catholique Jean-Paul II. "It looked like a lot of fun, and it was interesting and all that."
As for similarities in their games, the rising star has picked up a tip or two along the way, at least in part due to her frequent attendance at her
older sister's practices.
"She was a good passer, with good technique," stated Fannie. "You need to stay low and point your arms where you want the ball to go." Joining Gauthier
in capturing the major awards were Brooke Smith (Chill Award) and Samantha McGrath (Player of the Year).
Following is a complete listing of the individual honours that were doled out at the Caruso Club:
Award of Excellence - Fannie Gauthier
Coach's Award - Hannah Kirwan
Most Improved Player - Myla Dowe
Most Improved Player - Mia Lemay-Evans
Fitness Award - Manon Charbonneau
Award of Excellence - Alexie Chicoine
Coach's Award - Ashley Ruddick
Most Improved Player - Kameryn Van Wallegham
Most Improved Player - Lindsay Murray
Fitness Award - Shana Lessard
14U Chill - Blue
Award of Excellence - Sydney Jokinen
Coach's Award - Mia Renaud
Most Improved Player - Molly Lafantaisie
Most Improved Player - Kaija Grubber
Fitness Award - Anya Dowe
14U Chill - Black
Award of Excellence - Rory Frantz
Coach's Award - Brianne Perreault
Most Improved Player - Hayley Bertrand
Most Valuable Player - Alexia Lemay-Evans
Fitness Award - Haven Fournier
Award of Excellence - Maggy Davidson
Coach's Award - Kiera Brabant
Most Improved Player - Kyla Parsons
Most Valuable Player - Josée Beauchamp
Fitness Award - Maggy Davidson
Award of Excellence - Hailey Selk
Coach's Award - Katie Staffen
Most Improved Player - Amy Connelly
Most Valuable Player - Brielle Chicoine
Fitness Award - Symantha Welsh
Coach's Award - Kate Dugdale
Most Improved Player - Mallory Frantz
Most Valuable Player - Erin Gaffney
Fitness Award - Ryann Hudson
Coach's Award - Mikeala Richter
Coach's Award - Brooke Smith
Most Improved Player - Christina Rorison
Fitness Award - Tasia Lachapelle