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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2019
This is about so much more than just volleyball
by Randy Pascal

This is about so much more than just volleyball.

On an evening in which the graduating class of female talent with the Northern Chill Volleyball Club (NCVC) garnered significant accolades, it was the people they have become, over the course of the past five to six years, far more than the players they became, that earned the praises of coaches, current and past.

“I feel all of the coaches have kind of pushed us along, helping us grow up, honestly, being competitive, being independent, even within a team,” noted 17 year-old Lo-Ellen Park senior Mallory Frantz, as the Evening of Excellence closed off another season of club volleyball in Sudbury.

In fact, in their closing speech of thanks, Frantz and teammate Kate Dugdale penned a hypothetical letter from their twelve year old selves, the girls they were as they began this journey, to the young ladies who prepare for their post-secondary studies in the fall.

“I couldn't have imagined all of the friendships that I would make with all of the girls on the team,” said Frantz, recognized as Most Improved Player on the 18U Chill squad Monday night at the Caruso Club. “They were all strangers to me at the first tryout. I didn't even want to go to the first tryout. I didn't know anybody and I was so nervous – and very, very shy.”

Yet for as much as the focus for coach Heather Hastie's troops was clearly on the incredible character that runs rampant through this lineup, there were certainly some on-court successes to be feted. “I remember in 16U, we got a gold medal at provincials, but on the first two days, Friday and Saturday, we lost every single game,” said Frantz.

“On Sunday, we pulled through, won all of our games in two sets, and I got the final serve on our final point. That was just crazy.”

Chill Player of the Year, Erin Gaffney, was the setter on the 18U team that was presented, at various points, as absolutely wonderful role models for the younger Sudbury club teams, a group that has now expanded to ten squads on the girls side and included a quartet of male entries for the first time in NCVC history this year.

“I try and take a lot of pride in being a leader, on and off the court,” said Gaffney, also 17 years old, also graduating from Lo-Ellen, and heading east to study Environmental Sciences at Dalhousie University in September. “You can be a really talented player on the court, but if you're not bringing your team together, you're not being positive and you're bringing everyone else down, then you're not really an asset on the court.”

Prone to very soft, well thought-out responses during interviews, Gaffney suggested that her on court persona did gradually alter, over time. “I definitely improved on being louder on the court and moving into that role, being a bigger voice.” It was all part and parcel of her positional responsibilities as a setter, a court setting that she had no problem finding a great fit.

“I am such a ball hog, and I get to touch every single ball,” said Gaffney, speaking, I suspect, only partly tongue in cheek. “I get to be on the court, all the time. I love setting people up and watching them crush the ball, being that assist to the game.”

The balance of the 2018-2019 graduating class of Chill athletes also included Dara Desrochers, Jaime Schweyer, Ryann Hudson, Sydney Koehler, Jayden Rivers and Taylor Bailey. This May, however, the girls would have to share the stage with the boys, as a late flourishing 18U crew capped off their season with a bronze medal performance at provincials.

“The 16U boys, at nationals, actually came and supported us, made a sign and were cheering us on,” noted Frantz. “I thought that was pretty cool, having people that we may not know very well coming out and encouraging us. And we ended up going out to watch the U18 boys at provincials.”

In so doing, they most certainly would have observed the notable talents of Jacob Ferris, the 18 year old soon-to-be graduate of Ecole Secondaire Macdonald-Cartier, who received the Coach's Award for his team, largely due to the fact that he almost single-handedly assembled this team. After two seasons with the Greater Sudbury Volleyball Club, Ferris was not about to forego his final campaign before, ironically, also leaving for Dalhousie, albeit to study Marine Biology, without volleyball.

“Volleyball has been such a big part of my life,” he said. “Growing up and going through some hard times, volleyball was that one rock. It was very important for me still to get the training in my last year.”

Competing on a Panthθres high school team that has trouble challenging the likes of SDSSAA powerhouses from Lasalle and Lo-Ellen, Ferris suggested that his largest step forward in his first year with the Chill might easily have lied in finding his own personal comfort zone among some very talented teammates.

“The mental game and confidence was big for me,” he said. “It's such a difference between telling yourself that you can do it, then really believing it, then making the perfect pass. Just having that little doubt, and that doubt turns into a shank or something. I really had to focus on the mental game, really believing in myself.”

Because, as the 18U Northern Chill girls will readily attest, it's about so much more than just volleyball.

List of Northern Chill Volleyball Club award winners:

Player of the Year (G) – Erin Gaffney
Player of the Year (B) – Caleb Parks
Chill Award – Symantha Welsh
One to Watch – Alexie Chicoine
President's Award – Carrie Welsh

Most Improved Players
12UG – Arianna Thibodeau; Cassandra Lapensιe
13UG – Blue – Shae St Onge; Marley Tremblay
13UG – Black – Teia Kolari; Mackenzie St Pierre
14UG – Black – Siobhan Noble-Poland
14UG – Blue – Danyka Cholette
14UB – Cameron Van Der Zyl
15UG – Blue – Alexa Gordon
15UG – Black – Brielle Depatie
16UG – Isabelle Scratch
16UB – Noah Squires
17UG – Emma Squires
17UB – Greg Mrochek; Parker Farstad
18UG – Mallory Frantz
18UB – Taylor Fowler

Coach's Award
12UG – Emma Perreault
13UG – Blue – Hannah Kirwan
13UG – Black – Paige Kultalahti
14UG – Black – Allison Nordquist
14UG – Blue – Gabrielle Comeau
14UB – Quinn Bardell
15UG – Blue – Sophie Gaffney; Rory Frantz
15UG – Black – Hayley Bertrand
16UG – Kyla Parsons; Julianna Toppazzini
16UB – Cameron Showers
17UG – Erika Brown
17UB – Miguel Levac
18UG – Ryann Hudson; Erin Gaffney
18UB – Jacob Ferris

Most Valuable Players
14UG – Black – Alexie Chicoine
14UG – Blue – Kayla Bouffard
14UB – Ashten Lachance
15UG – Black – Mia Renaud
16UB – Noah Perreault
17UG – Brielle Chicoine
18UB – Cameron Alisappi

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