Muskie spikers bring home bronze

The Muskie senior girls’ volleyball team packed a lot of action into a two-day tournament in Thunder Bay last weekend.
And in the process, they sent a clear message that they’re a team to contend with come playoff time.
The girls opened action at the 14-team St. Pat’s tourney with a 25-16, 25-8 win over Port Arthur Collegiate, but then they dropped a pair of close sets by scores of 25-23 and 26-24 to Hammarskjold to even their record at 2-2.
A third loss in a row—this time 25-17 against host St. Pat’s—seemed to kick the squad into a different zone as they dominated the second set with Saints, winning 25-10.
The black-and-gold’s fourth match against the St. Ignatius Falcons was close all the way, with Amanda Allan delivering two key kills late in the first set to secure a 25-21 victory.
The second one featured more of the same, this time with middle Trish Smith smashing three balls to the floor early as the Muskies built a lead en route to a tough 25-23 win.
The Muskies’ fifth round-robin match of the day was nearly a washout as Dennis Franklin Cromartie School (Thunder Bay) failed to show up for the first set.
But they arrived in time to play the second, which saw Fort High grab a 25-15 triumph and push their tournament record to 7-3.
Their next match was—to this point of the season—the most exciting of the year. With longtime nemesis Dryden sporting an 8-0 record, and chewing up the competition, the Muskies had to step up their game to another notch—and they did.
The first set featured big kills, spectacular digs, and great serving on both sides as the Muskies battled to a 25-23 win. Then in the second set, the black-and-gold were unstoppable.
In a show of passion that rivalled last year’s NorWOSSA final, the Muskies simply would not be denied, overwhelming the Eagles to the tune of 25-11 to finish third in Pool ‘A.’
Fort High then crossed over to play Churchill, the second-place team in Pool ‘B’ with an identical 9-3 record, in the playoff round.
The back-and-forth first set looked like a lock for the Muskies as they took a commanding 23-19 lead, but an unusual kicked ball return breathed life into the Churchill offence as they roared back to grab a 24-23 lead.
The Muskies hung tough, however, and a timely kill by Kate Elliott—coupled with a service ace by Trish Smith—clinched a 26-24 win.
The second set was far less dramatic as Elliott pounded seven balls to the floor to propel the black-and-gold to a 25-14 win and a berth in the semi-finals against (who else?) the Dryden Eagles.
In what might have been the best match of the tournament, the Eagles jumped out to early leads in both sets—only to have the Muskies fight back.
Unfortunately, the end result was a pair of Dryden wins by scores of 25-23 and 25-20 that sent the Eagles to the gold-medal final against the Hillcrest Colts (Thunder Bay).
Dryden beat the Colts 25-23 and 25-17 to claim top honours.
Meanwhile, the Muskies headed to the bronze-medal match versus the Westgate Tigers (Thunder Bay) and their disappointment over losing in the semi-finals showed in their first set against Westgate.
A lethargic effort resulted in a 25-12 loss in set one, but a resurgent Muskie squad took over the match from that point on—winning the second set 25-16 and then the rubber 15-11 to clinch bronze.
Elliott led the offensive attack all weekend with 59 kills, including a number of back row attacks, while Melanie Pierce had 36. Trish Smith added 10, Amanda Allan and Megan Soderholm each had eight, and Riley Broman six.
Allan also contributed a team-high seven blocks while Smith had four.
Veteran libero Samantha Pearson anchored an often stingy Muskie defence, playing in each of the 19 sets and passing the ball with precision from the back row.
Elliott was selected to the tournament all-star team while Dryden’s Sarah Wintle was named as the tournament MVP.