Winning in volleyball often comes down to consistency and momentum.
Valley Heights Bears senior girls, undefeated in the NSSAA regular season, did not start with the first and lost the second in the Norfolk senior girls volleyball championships at Valley Heights Secondary School. Holy Trinity Titans seemed to have all the early momentum Thursday night and elevated their game to upset the first-place Bears in a best-of-five final 25-20, 25-18, 25-14.
"We weren't playing tonight like we can," said Bears setter Sara Reimer. "We were playing more like six people on a court, not a team. We still played well – we had some good saves, we had some good rallies when I thought we were completely done and we still managed to get the ball over the net."
"It's really disappointing," said teammate Courtney Townsend. "This team is just such a family though. Everyone's so supportive, everyone's hugging each other. It's going to be hard. We're going to go home and we're probably going to cry ourselves to sleep, but tomorrow we're going to come back and we're going to practice and everyone's just going to focus on the positives. When we are positive, when we cheer, everything is good, right? I don't think we will struggle with getting back up, we just have to the right mindset."
The third set Thursday night, with the outcome all but decided, saw the Bears playing some of their best volleyball of the night.
"I think we were just like 'we're going to give it, because that's all we have left, so we're just going to go for it,'" said Reimer.
"We're a lot more relaxed usually," said Bears' Kristen Fros. "I think we were all really, really feeling the pressure, because we were undefeated all season. I find this crowd makes me really nervous, just because they're all coming to watch us win.
"I think everyone was feeling frustrated after the first couple of points and it just went downhill pretty fast. In the start of the second set I thought we were picking up a bit. And then the last set, I thought we were picking it up at the beginning. We just couldn't keep it going."
"I think we were a little too overconfident," said Townsend. "We were the school who's been undefeated since Grade 10, we were the school with the trophy. It was disappointing to see the score change and change... they (Holy Trinity) felt like a whole different team – and good for them, they played amazing."
"They (Holy Trinity) were playing really, really well," Fros agreed. "Like the best I've ever seen them play. They weren't missing their serves very much, they weren't missing their hits. All their kills were really good. We were just getting overwhelmed, I guess. Panicked."
"The girls just keep showing really great composure," said Holy Trinity coach Sonja Bedic, noting the difference it made for the Titans in the final week of the season, then semifinals and finals. "We thought about a set that came down to serving on Tuesday night, so tonight they were 'on' their serves. You've got to be on your game to win a final, and they were."
The Titans were also communicating on the court – talking – exceptionally well, said Bedic.
"One player in particular talked more than throughout the whole season."
Compounding their other problems, Reimer injured her left-hand thumb at the net with the Bears trailing 16-11 in the first set.
"They hit it and I went to volley it up, and it just caught the end of it," said Reimer. "Just jammed it."
Her coach asked, 'are you good?'
She shook her head, but wanted to stay in the game.
"I didn't know at first if I was going to be able to play. But I knew if I came off, I was going to really regret it. So I just kept playing."
It did affect her setting, she admitted, but not as much as she thought it would.
"I did a lot more bumping sets. I didn't really volley as much because I want to save it for CWOSSA."
Her bump-sets were not as close to the net, however, and teammates like Kristen Fros, who Reimer said likes her sets close to the net, were sometimes reaching back to hit.
"It's hard because you don't want to swing too much and put it over the net and give them a free ball," said Reimer.
Holy Trinity's junior and senior teams will be playing CWOSSA AAA qualified next Tuesday in Waterloo against St. David, while the junior and senior Bears are headed to 'The Nicest Town Around' in Bruce County next Thursday for the CWOSSA A championships.
"They're really excited to be going to the CWOSSA qualifier next week," said HT coach Bedic. "I think it's really come together at the end of the season, right at the right time."
"Four hours," said Reimer, not sure where Chesley was on the map. "We have to get up at four in the morning, I know that. Not really looking forward to that," she added with a laugh.
"We have to remember it's a completely different group of people (at CWOSSA)," said Fros. "We've played Simcoe, Waterford, Delhi, HT, we know what to expect and we feel a lot of pressure playing those teams. But CWOSSA is a completely different thing. We don't know any of the teams, we don't know what to expect. They don't know us. There's no pressure because no one there expects us to win."
Valley Heights coach Terry Reimer said he wants to start rebuilding the team's confidence Friday morning.
"We're going to sit down tomorrow morning and we're going to have a chat. We're going to talk about what Holy Trinity did well to win. How are we going to bring that on to our side of the net when we get to CWOSSA? What are we going to do that Trinity was able to implement – with our personnel, we don't have their personnel – so that we can play with reckless abandon and not tentative, not scared... with confidence? The big thing is to shift from 'I've got to be perfect' to 'functional'. Let's make it functional. What have we got to lose? We have everything to win, we've got nothing to lose. So let's start playing like that.
"I like this team," Reimer summed up. "I like the way they play. Tonight, they struggled and started to see some ugliness. Okay, let's get rid of the ugly, let's get back to the positive, let's get back to the top."