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Evening of Excellence a family affair
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Graduating players – and others – have often referred to their time with the Northern Chill Volleyball Club as constituting somewhat the equivalent of a second family; such is the bond between athletes who will spend perhaps five or six winters in a row together, four to five times a week.

That said, not only were familial ties evident across different teams as multiple siblings walked away with a little extra hardware from the Chill Evening of Excellence year-end banquet, they were also front and centre with some of the most prestigious awards of the night.

Roxanne Fournier was understandably beaming with pride as daughter Haven, a long-time club member who has committed to the St Clair Saints of the OCAA, was named as the recipient of the Chill Award. She had every reason to be equally as proud when she herself was honoured with the President’s Award, acknowledged for her “outstanding contributions to the organization”.

On so many levels, this was a very special evening for the Fournier clan.

“It’s nice to see all of the years I’ve put into playing for the club being recognized,” said Haven, a graduate of Collège Notre-Dame by the time the end of this month rolls around. “It means that much more being presented by Sheldon (Chill coach Sheldon Root). He’s been a really big role model for me, always there to support me in everything that I do.”

“And this means a lot because of my team,” Fournier added. “You know, you don’t get to pick your teammates – but I got very lucky. I would not be the same person that I am without them.”

With two years of substantial inactivity heading into their final year of secondary schooling, this particular age group was faced with some very difficult choices this past fall. “I think that there was some hesitation about whether we wanted to keep doing it, is it worth it in my senior year,” conceded Fournier.

“Luckily, everyone stuck with it. There’s almost an unspoken agreement that we are all here for each other.”

That chapter now closes as this undersized attacker makes her way to Windsor, some eight hours away – though thankfully in the same division as the Cambrian Golden Shield. With a new door opening, there is plenty of work still to be done.

“As I am a shorter player, I rely on my vertical and my ability to be fast, so I really want to keep that up over the summer,” said the young woman who has pretty much always manned the left-side hitting position. “I want to increase my vertical, so that I can be an impact player – especially on the left side, where I am likely up against people who are a lot taller than me.”

“I want to do some beach (volleyball) training, but I also really want to focus on picking my shots better on the left side.”

Members of the Chill Norsemen, the U18 boys equivalent to the Chill Black Ice team that graduated Fournier and her mates, Jude Caruso and Aidan Carlson find themselves very much in the same zone as do the young ladies, fully appreciative of a tightly-knit grouping that produced a very impressive 12-2 run while competing at provincials and nationals over the course of the past two months.

“All of these guys, throughout everything, have just turned into a family for me,” said Caruso, Norsemen team MVP in 2021-2022, the highly committed young setter making trips several times a week from his home in North Bay to Sudbury to compete with the Chill. “I couldn’t even imagine leaving and going to another club.”

“This team has been everything for me. Just the amount of fun that we have as a team; it was just an amazing season.”

This went far beyond just fun, the senior at St Joseph Scollard Hall fully aware of the need to perfect his craft, a critical key to team success. “I’ve always been a setter,” said Caruso. “Even when we didn’t have positions, I was the guy who was setting everyone. This year, I added jump setting, which is a big change – and took me a while to get it.”

“Guy and Nathan (coaches Guy Perreault and Nathan Squires) really helped me adapt – but it makes a big difference from standing setting and it really shows.”

In fact, such is the mind meld between setter and hitter that in many ways the two operate as one, producing a game sequence that is now permanently etched in the mind of the young man who sets it up on a tie for folks like Carlson and others to do damage.

“A ball got hit right at Aidan and he wasn’t happy about it,” said Caruso with a smile. “He said: next ball, set me. He hit the guy right in the face; that might have been the biggest hit of the year – and he just turned and flexed.”

“I think I will remember that moment forever.”

A former hockey teammate of Noah Squires, son of the coach, Aidan Carlson wasn’t 100% sold on club volleyball when he first joined the Chill. “In elementary school, I was playing as a left side and Nathan (Squires) noticed me. He reached out to my dad and suggested coming out to the summer camp.”

“That year, the Chill was doing a U16 (boys) team, but I was one year younger. I was showing up with all of these older guys pounding balls. I was overwhelmed – but I did what I could and I made the team.”

With a few of the Horizon Aigles already committed, the soon-to-be graduate of Collège Notre-Dame – Carlson will be joining the Cambrian Golden Shield in the fall – evolved quite quickly.

In retrospect, his coaches created a monster; well, a monster hitter, anyways.

“I used to be super timid because I’m a shorter guy playing against super tall guys,” said Carlson. “But Nathan and Guy taught me how to stay away from the block, run different things and hit around it. That helped a lot.”

It did indeed.

Last Friday at the Caruso Club, Aidan Carlson was named Player of the Year on the boys side, with Alexia Lemay-Evans following suit with the girls. Macie Barlow and Hayden Quevillon were highlighted as the “Ones to Watch” were, with Miguel Leclair securing the Frost Award and the 16U Subzero Chill girls nabbing the McNair Cup after capturing a silver medal at Division 1 Tier 1 provincials, a first in the history of the local club.

Following is a complete listing of the individual team award winners:

12U Girls - HeatWave
OVA Award of Excellence: Kendra Vanwallegham
Coach's Award: Carly Benedict
Most Improved Player: Alexie Paquette
Most Improved Player: Morgan Gauvreau

13U Girls - Black Cyclones
OVA Award of Excellence: Leah Serre
Coach's Award: Jasmine Lussier
Most Improved Player: Adelina Naghi
Most Improved Player: Aliya Heinrichs

13U Girls - Blue Cyclones
OVA Award of Excellence: Sarah Brenton
Coach's Award: Josslyn Ouellette
Most Improved Player: Elayna Skraba
Most Improved Player: Emily MacDonald

14U Boys - Glaciers
OVA Award of Excellence: Reid Zakamarko
Coach's Award: Justin Lafontaine
Most Improved Player: Carson Gatien
Most Valuable Player: Clark MacIntyre

14U Girls - Black Vortex
OVA Award of Excellence: Isabelle Renaud
Coach's Award: Addison Benedict
Most Improved Player: Mara Kahl
Most Valuable Player: Ellie Renaud

14U Girls - Blue Vortex
OVA Award of Excellence: Mya Balfe
Coach's Award: Brooklyn Melanson
Most Improved Player: Saige Bradley
Most Valuable Player: Hailey Ayre

15U Boys - OverChill
OVA Award of Excellence: Owen Perron
Coach's Award: Brayden Bertrand
Coach's Award: Mathieu Berthiaume
Most Improved Player: Nicolas Dalcourt

15U Girls - Smashers
OVA Award of Excellence: Emma Perreault
Coach's Award: Kaylee Lavallee
Most Improved Player: Olivia Nicholls
Most Improved Player: Selina Sauve

15U Girls - Crushers
OVA Award of Excellence: Alaina Marolt
Coach's Award: Isabella Deschenes
Most Improved Player: Cassy Seguin
Most Valuable Player: Taryn Rollins

16U Girls - IceStorm
OVA Award of Excellence: Sarah Teddy
Coach's Award: Mia Robson
Most Improved Player: Arianna Melanson
Most Valuable Player: Abby Laporte

16U Girls - Subzero
OVA Award of Excellence: Hannah Kirwan
Coach's Award: Alyssa Nicholls
Most Improved Player: Abbey Walker
Most Valuable Player: Mia Lemay-Evans

17U Boys - Frost
OVA Award of Excellence: Zander Kasunich
Coach's Award: Andrew Rose
Most Improved Player: James Welsh
Most Valuable Player: Cale Bast

17U Girls - Avalanche
OVA Award of Excellence: Alexie Chicoine
Most Improved Player: Danika Chenier
Most Improved Player: Emma Harris
Most Valuable Player: Hannah Crane

18U Boys - Norsemen
OVA Award of Excellence: Kyle Perreault
Coach's Award: Matthew Hunt
Coach's Award: Mikaio Walia
Most Valuable Player: Jude Caruso

18U Girls - BlackIce
OVA Award of Excellence: Mackenzie Selk
Coach's Award: Josée Beauchamp
Coach's Award: Sophie Gaffney
Most Valuable Player: Kameryn Vanwallegham

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