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Provincial championships prep Northern Chill for nationals

By: Randy Pascal – Playback

 | Apr 29, 2014 - 10:55 AM |
The Northern Chill 18U Girls are ready for nationals in Edmonton after competing at the Ontario Volleyball Association Provincial Championships last weekend. File photo.

The Northern Chill 18U Girls are ready for nationals in Edmonton after competing at the Ontario Volleyball Association Provincial Championships last weekend. File photo.

The Northern Chill 18U Girls were not about to lose their focus.

Sure, they knew that regardless of the outcome at the Ontario Volleyball Association Provincial Championships last weekend, they would still be heading to nationals in Edmonton next week.

Given that the all-Canadian tournament is based on a straight-forward application process, no qualifications were necessary.

Still, the team had a goal in mind. Rated at No. 21 entering the Ontario playdowns in Kitchener-Waterloo, the 18U Chill were adamant about moving up the ladder, feeling that a top-12 finish was achievable.

The provincial-national tournament combo will cap off the Chill careers for all nine of the young ladies who have donned the uniform for at least the past few years. Moving through the process, all agree that there is something uniquely different to the 2013-2014 farewell tour.

"In 14U and 15U, you're learning more," said left-side Confederation senior Alandria Czerkas. "But as you get older, you're bonding more as a team. It's really an attitude towards taking the new language, combos and things like that, and putting it to use."

It's an attitude that starts at the top.

"It's been my favourite year," Czerkas said. "I really like having Mike (Margarit) as a coach. I find that he's very positive towards things. And I like his energy level — he really keeps us going.

"I find that he's taught us a lot about intensity and working hard."

Seventeen-year-old Grade 12 Lockerby Composite student-athlete Lauren Kyle is in her fourth year with the Chill, preparing to embark on her post-secondary journey at the University of British Columbia — Okanagan in the fall.

With plenty of experience at power (left-side) in her younger days, Kyle has made a smooth transition to libero for the past two years. Like Czerkas, she notes a difference in the atmosphere that has surrounded the group of nine for the past eight months.

"We all know that it's our last year here, so we want to make the best of it," said Kyle. "That changed our mindset a lot. We're working better as a team. We all had the skills, but now we're coming together as a team. That's kind of what the final year is all about."

While competition will always be front and centre with the young ladies who sign up for the provincewide battles that are part and parcel of being a member of the Northern Chill, the development that comes with the experience is equally as critical, especially to those who aspire to play beyond high school.

Players are moved to new positions, expanding the versatility of the athletes. Czerkas meandered her way through stints as a setter and right-side hitter before moving to the opposite side of the court this year.

"It's a lot different," she said. "At left side, you're all the way at the back of the court, whereas right side, you're along the line. I've really enjoyed transitioning from right side to left side."

Equally open to change was Kyle, tackling with enthusiasm the role of libero that is clearly not for everyone.

"You have to be very focused, I would say, because you're not doing as much swinging," she explained.

"It's very one-dimensional. You have one task to do, and you have to be very, very good at the one task. I think it suits me, it's what I am meant to play."

That type of buy-in, across the entire lineup, would be key as the Chill looked to show progress at Provincials.

Pool play on Day 1 could not have gone much better as the Sudbury ladies swept their way to a 3-0 mark, beating the Niagara Rapids from St. Catharines (25-11, 23-25, 15-8), the NBYVC Lakers from North Bay (25-17, 25-23) and the ACTS Elites from Orangeville (20-25, 25-20, 18-16).

That result would find the team repooled in a grouping with three opponents, all ranked in the top 17 or better for Day 2 play. After struggling out of the gate with a straight set loss to the Etobicoke Titans (13-25, 18-25), the Chill rebounded to show well in six gruelling matches, earning a split.

The Chill fell just short of upsetting the Predators Black from Kitchener-Waterloo (24-26, 25-20, 16-18), but did manage to climb the rankings with a three-set win over the Burlington Blaze (23-25, 27-25, 15-10).

Slotted in for a Tier II quarter-final matchup on Sunday, the Chill outlasted the No. 16 seed Stratford Stingers (23-25, 27-25, 15-10), before falling in the semifinals to the Ottawa Fusion (27-25, 23-25, 8-15) and the Predators Black for a second time (25-23, 12-25, 12-15).

The 2013-2014 edition of the Northern Chill 18U squad featured Emily McDonald, Lauren Kyle, Alandria Czerkas, Manon Duhaime, Emily Sanders, Emily Clark, Jillian Vallier, Amanda Kring, Kelsey Pitre, head coach Michael Margarit, as well as assistants Jason Nicholls and Adriana Pacitto.

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