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Crusaders, Gators win city finals in volleyball

Crusaders setter Amber Edwards, and Gators setter Jack Drake both took home MVP honours. 

The junior high girls William D. Cuts Crusaders and the junior high boys Lorne Akins Gators volleyball teams won last week’s St. Albert Physical Education Council (SAPEC) city finals. 

The night’s first matchup saw the Crusaders girls' team walk in with a perfect 11-0 record against an equally-as-competitive 9-2 Sir George Simpson Voyageurs girls' team. The games, hosted Nov. 23 at the Morinville Leisure Centre, were played in a best-of-five format, which saw the first team to capture three sets take home the win. 

The Crusaders took home the first set by a score of 25-19, but the Voyageurs came right back in the second set. After trailing by a 20-14 margin, the Voyageurs rattled off 11 of the next 12 points to take it 25-14. All were squared at one set apiece. 

The Voyageurs continued that dominance into the third set, taking an early 6-2 lead over the Crusaders, yet it would be the Crusaders who played the comeback card in this one, as they eventually took over the game, winning the third set 25-15 and taking a 2-1 lead in sets. 

From here, the two teams battled hard, with the score at a razor-thin 19-19 at one point, but W.D Cuts eventually pulled away to a 25-20 fourth-set victory to take the game by a 3-1 set advantage. 

The win capped off a perfect season for the Crusaders, finishing 12-0 on the year, an accomplishment head coach Kim Knoll is proud of. 

“We’ve got a really strong group of girls who played super well the whole season,” said Knoll. “I’m just so proud of the girls, they played great, and they are just such a good group of girls.

“It was awesome to see them win.” 

On top of the championship, setter Amber Edwards was awarded the MVP award for the Crusaders. 

The game wasn’t an easy one. Crusaders captain Jessica Fiddler, 14, admitted a bit of doubt crept into her mind after the Voyageurs came back to take the second set. 

“I doubted us, I thought [the Voyageurs] might win for a second, but we picked up like we always do,” said Fiddler. “It was really nice [to play for the Crusaders], we all really bonded and had a really good season.” 

It was the first SAPEC championship for the Crusaders since 1998. 

The late game featured two schools battling it out for volleyball supremacy in the junior high boy's division. The Lorne Atkins Gators boys' team came in as the favourites, sporting an 8-1 record, while the Elmer S. Gish Warriors boys' team played the role of the chippy underdogs with a 6-3 record. 

The Gators were able to capitalize on a few key mistakes by the Warriors to edge out the opening set by a 25-20 margin.

The Warriors battled back in a back-and-forth second set that saw the two teams trade leads multiple times. Eventually, the Warriors pulled away to take a hard-fought 25-21 second set win to tie the game at one apiece. 

Gish rode that momentum into the third set, jumping out to an early 9-4 lead over the Gators. That stellar play continued until the Warriors captured their second consecutive set by a 25-18 score to take a 2-1 lead in sets and a chance to win it all in the fourth. 

The fourth set was a dogfight between the two teams, right down to the wire. The Gators had things under control with a 23-17 lead late in the set but, once again, the Warriors put on a late comeback to get the score to 24-22. It wouldn’t be enough, as Lorne Akins closed things out 25-22 to force a tie-breaking first-to-15 fifth set. 

Late-stage comebacks were the name of the game going into the fifth set. The Gators held a strong 7-3 advantage at the halfway mark of the set, but the score narrowed to a 9-9 tie as the Warriors stuck around. Eventually, the Gators' talent found one last push to give them the 15-11 set win, securing the championship with a 3-2 advantage in sets. 

Head coach Moritz Schmidt couldn’t be happier about how his team performed over the course of the season and in such a razor-thin championship game. 

“The boys battled hard all season, we had to overcome some obstacles, and I’m just really proud of the guys who came together and played well,” said Schmidt. “The game didn’t go quite the way we expected it to go, but they overcame adversity again and I’m really proud that they were able to close it off.” 

Gators setter Jack Drake took home MVP honours in the game. He said the team has worked hard to get to this point, and having to fight from behind is always tough. 

“We worked hard all season and put everything we got into this,” said Drake. “It’s tough and a lot of stress on us going into five sets but, in the end, when we won, it was great and felt so relieving.”