Hawks players Dakota MacDonald left and Samantha Steffensen converge attempting to return a serve during the COSSA Championship final on Wednesday Feb. 20 in Haliburton. Although the Hawks battled for every point against the visiting Eagles of Quinte Christian High School the home side lost./DARREN LUM Staff

Hawks shine silver at COSSA Championship

By Darren Lum

Published Feb. 26 2019

When the A COSSA championship was over the Red Hawks girls’ volleyball team held their heads high after losing to the visiting Quinte Christian High School Eagles.

Although the Hawks played with grit and tenacity in the championship final the Eagles were clearly the better team and deserved to advance to the all-provincials as the COSSA champions with a 3-0 (25-16 25-18 and 25-12) win.

Earlier in the day the home side earned their trip to the final with a dominant performance in the semi-finals. Overpowering serves and a far superior offence were clearly in the Hawks favour against the Ecole secondaire publique Marc Garneau.

The packed stands of mostly peers alumni friends and family had plenty to cheer during the 3-0 (25-11 25-15 and 25-17) win.

Coach Dan Gimon said the silver medal was a product of hard work and dedication to improving.

“They worked hard this year. They worked hard in practice. We started in November and we practised four days week. Sometimes we practised a couple of times on weekends and the commitment was there so I think that’s a big part of it” he said.

He adds it was impressive to see the large contingent of supporters for the Hawks and was a showcase to exhibit the growth and the development of the team.

“Whoever came out could see the progress we made as a team and kind of as a program too I think because the last time we hosted COSSA here was like three or four years ago with the juniors. I think it’s a good thing and it’s good for their self-esteem and their morale to be able to play in front of [a home crowd] – and this is kind of what we’ve been building towards is a lot of the mental part of the game is to play in front of a home crowd. Show off what you have and I think they can be proud” he said.

The COSSA final happened to put the Hawks in what can be best described as a role-reversal from their semi-final match.

Going down by 10 points to start the final match was an early test for the team.

Being able to respond to this adversity has been something the Hawks’ coaching staff has been working with their players on dealing with.

“That’s all part of the mental thing too is that they got to … which is what we’ve been trying to teach them:  Yeah you get behind but you got to get back up again” Gimon said.

The Hawks got back up and made a game of it by going on a 13 – 6 run getting to within three points of the Eagles losing 13-16. This response had the players fired up and brought the home crowd to life who screamed and applauded in support. Unfortunately the Eagles bent but didn’t break going on a 9-3 run to end the game with a 25-16 win.

The second game started much better than the first for the Hawks.

They actually started with a 3-1 lead and were tied 5-5 before the visitors pulled away with a 9-2 run to lead 14-7. Haliburton would make a last push narrowing the deficit to six points but ended up losing 18-25. In the end the Eagles proved be the deeper team and started the third like the first leading 9-0. The visitors kept up the pressure and won 25-12.

Gimon acknowledged the disparity between the teams in the finals.

“We got out served. That was the big thing. They are a good team” he said.

Gimon thought his strongest players such as his captain and daughter Natayla Gimon and Dakota MacDonald who will leave after this year and look to play post-secondary volleyball learned there is always someone better than you with this defeat.

For the younger players it showed there is optimism for the future and a solid foundation because of quality coaching including faculty available to assist the program – the Steve Smith coached juniors finished as Kawartha semi-finalists.

“They can look at this team and go ‘Well they got a good program and I think we can match it.’ There’s a lot of girls on the junior team. Steve [Smith] had 15 this year and there are more coming from [JDHES]. Only four are moving up to senior so yeah they’ll look at building the program” he said.

The team’s future is looking bright with COSSA junior call-ups Jordyn Nicholls and Alexius Mills (Sky Lambshead was also called up but could not play due to injury).

Nicholls was part of the regular rotation and showcased booming serves and all-around solid play.

Gimon thought if the team had the junior call-ups for the whole season the final’s outcome could have ended differently. Their addition could have added depth to match the Eagles.

“That’s the thing about their team. They got depth. They got three club players and the other players are all [capable]” he said referring to the opponent.

Missing from the lineup for COSSA was rookie Rebecca Archibald who was on a family holiday. He said her absence was felt.

Gimon credited N. Gimon for her quality of play and leadership as a major factor for the team’s success.

“Without her I don’t think we would have gone this far. It’s not so much my coaching. I’d say it’s more her playing” he said.

The captain was quick to credit her dad her coach with getting her game to where it is to be her best for herself and the Hawks.

“It’s easy to play with him coaching. He’s always pushing me to my best. He knows my limits. He knows when I need to push myself more. He’s very good at that and I think knowing where he wanted me to go and where he wanted to be able to help the team go was good” he said.

She said the difference between the teams in the final was the ability to return serve.

“Their serving was very very strong and … our passing just wasn’t up to par with their serving so that’s what they beat us on. Had we had the passing we would have had a much better go at things” she said.

N. Gimon whose defence and spikes at the net and from the back line kept defences on their heels in the tournament is hoping to get accepted to Dalhousie University where she wants to play volleyball and to major in one of three areas of study marine biology health promotion or English.

When asked about the significance of the silver medal N. Gimon said it will be a reminder of where she came from and will provide her a basis for comparison to when she hopefully plays post-secondary volleyball.

“This is where I came from. This is how I learned and became the player that I am and will be” she said.