SOUTHEAST SASKATCHEWAN - The Lampman School Grizzlies brought home the gold medal from the 1A girls' provincial volleyball tournament in Annaheim and Watson, and they did it by avenging their defeat in last year's provincial final.
Lampman defeated Rose Valley 2-1 (25-20, 14-25, 15-12) to capture the provincial championship. Rose Valley defeated Lampman in 2022's final, and had won the 1A girls' title the previous six provincials.
Grizzlies' coach Whitney Czerwonka said it made the victory even sweeter to end Rose Valley's dynasty.
"Last year we were just excited to be at provincials, and earn a banner for our school. This year we had a little bit more of a mission and we had our eyes set on Rose Valley in that final. When we were able to do it and end their streak, all of the hard work paid off.
"There was a lot of tears being shed because there was just a lot of work to be put in and they were really happy."
Rose Valley had also beaten Lampman in the final of the regional tournament the previous weekend.
"That was a tough one, and that was maybe in the back of their minds, but they didn't really waver from playing our game and getting the win," said Czerwonka.
Lampman went 7-0 at provincials, which were held Nov. 17 and 18. They opened with a 2-0 (25-20, 25-23) win over the host Annaheim team. From there, they defeated Maymont 2-0 (25-21, 26-24), Ogema 2-1 (19-25, 25-22, 15-12) and LeRoy 2-0 (25-23, 25-21) to finish the round robin at 4-0.
In the playoffs, Lampman won 2-0 (25-18, 25-10) over Hepburn in the quarter-final, and then faced LeRoy again in the semifinal and won 2-1 (18-25, 25-13, 15-8) to advance to the final.
"They were just really resilient. There were a few times during the weekend where they fell behind, but they didn't give up on themselves, and just kept clawing back, and it was awesome to watch that dedication," said Czerwonka.
Czerwonka said the Grizzlies hit the ball and served well at provincials, and defensively they played "extraordinary" volleyball.
Czerwonka thought the competition was much tougher this year than in 2022. A lot of the teams were "scrappy" and played the Grizzlies tough, but the Lampman team pulled through.
The Grizzlies started slowly but Czerwonka saw their progress ast the season went along. Seven athletes were back from last year's team and wanted another shot at Rose Valley. The Grizzlies finished second at a tournament at Indian Head and picked up a top-four finish in Moose Jaw.
Five of the 10 players on this year's team won't be back next season, Czerwonka said. Four of them will graduate next June, and another player's family is moving. But she noted they have some strong Grade 9s who will join the team next year.
Czerwonka said the players did a great job of representing the town and the school, and demonstrated a lot of sportsmanship to the referees, opponents and fans.
"It was very entertaining and I was proud to watch them all weekend," she said.
Teams from the southeast also had an outstanding showing at the 3A girls' provincial tournament at Indian Head, claiming three of the top four spots.
The Oxbow Black Knights made it to the final, losing 2-0 to Lanigan and taking silver. The Kipling School Magyars defeated the Carnduff Tigers 2-1 in the bronze medal game.
Oxbow went 4-0 to finish first in their round-robin pool, while Carnduff was second at 3-1. Oxbow defeated Unity 2-0 (25-17, 29-27), host Indian Head 2-0 (25-19, 25-18), Shellbrook 2-0 (25-11, 25-11) and Carnduff 2-0 (25-22, 25-12).
Oxbow then beat Maple Creek 2-0 (25-14, 25-17) in the quarter-final and Kipling 2-1 (25-23, 21-25, 15-10) to reach the final. They fell 2-0 (25-17, 25-20) to Lanigan in the gold-medal game.
Carnduff won its first three games, sweeping Shellbrook 2-0 (26-24, 25-11), Indian Head 2-0 (25-18, 25-18), and Unity 2-0 (25-15, 25-18).
After the loss to Oxbow, Carnduff recovered to defeat Waldheim 2-0 (25-20, 25-21), but then lost 2-0 (25-22, 25-13) to Lanigan in the semis and 2-1 (25-21, 15-25, 15-7) to Kipling in the bronze-medal game.
Kipling opened with three straight wins, beating Maple Creek 2-0 (25-17, 25-19), Osler Valley Christian Academy 2-0 (25-10, 25-9) and Waldheim 2-1 (25-22, 21-25, 15-12). After losing 2-0 (25-12, 25-12) to Lanigan, Kipling won 2-0 (25-19, 25-18) over Indian Head in the quarter-finals before closing out the tournament against Oxbow and Carnduff.