OK, so this championship title thing isn’t easy?
Four seasons ago, after an unexpected upset loss in its junior zone championship tournament, Mt. Douglas Rams girls volleyball coach Derek Horton remembers taking his heartbroken team aside and telling them that their time would come.
“I don’t consider myself a big speech guy, but I just said to the girls that day ‘You have to remember this feeling because you don’t want to have it again,’” began Horton.
“I told them all that we would be back, and we would climb that mountain, and here we are three years later, and my two Grade 9’s from that team — Lucy Millam and Becca Pettigrew — have grown into champions.”
That’s just what all three were thinking about, in between all of the pandemonium which accompanied Mt. Douglas’ 3-2 victory over Vernon’s W.L. Seaton Sonics in the championship final of the B.C. senior girls Triple A championships which wrapped up Saturday at Vancouver’s Crofton House School.
Millam, the talented left-side being courted by universities across the province, was selected the tournament MVP, while middle blocker Pettigrew was honoured by her team with its Clutch Serving award following the title win over Seaton, a match in which momentum was the toughest thing to hold on to.
“Seaton gave us everything we could handle,” said Horton. “We had a pretty significant lead in the first set and lost. They led in the second and we came back. It was a case of whomever gets the lead, they just couldn’t hold it. But both teams competed defensively.”
And so in true back-and-forth championship-match fashion, Mt. Douglas managed to come through with its first B.C. title since 2002, the same school year in which Horton was a high school senior and a player himself over at crosstown Claremont Secondary.
Coming off the challenges all teams faced during the cancelled 2020 season was no less impactful at Mt. Douglas.
“It was a complete re-build with this team,” Mt. Douglas co-coach Jim Smyth said. “Most of the players had new positions to learn and they worked very hard to beat some amazing competition all season. We worked through multiple injuries which left us with a very small bench. But when we played our best, nobody could beat us.”
And having the right mental approach was just as essential, and that was something which filled fellow co-coach Sam Owen with pride as she helped her players reach their full potential over the re-start campaign.
“What an amazing group of young ladies,” she explained. “It was awesome to watch their development and growth throughout the season, and then see that translate into finishing their season as B.C. champs.”
Yet the memory of being upset along a title run that never even got a chance to start four years ago served as a reminder to both Millam and Pettigrew as to the all of the special ingredients which are needed in order to finish at the top of that mountain.
“Winning B.C. high school provincials is honestly a dream come true,” said Millam. “I always asked myself ‘What if we win?’ and ‘Can we do this?’ And now I can finally answer myself by saying ‘Yes’… and then I even received MVP of the province.”
Added Pettigrew: “In Grade 9, no one would have expected us to become a team that would win B.C. championships. But our players, coaches, and parents have put in so much work to get us to this point. It felt so good to our senior seasons on such a high point.”
This championship thing certainly isn’t easy.
But remembering the feeling of four years ago was a huge boost to the fortunes of Mt. Douglas senior girls volleyball this past Saturday night.
“In Grade 9 we suffered a tough loss, but over the four years we learned, played hard and never gave up,” said Millam. “It’s never a one-person game and every team member, even alumni, had a part to play in this amazing win and we couldn’t have done it without our amazing coaches, support, and our fans from far and wide.”
Mt. Douglas setter Giada Valentini as well as outside hitter Olivia Peterson were each honoured as first team all-stars, while outside hitter Kally Hart was named to the second all-star team.
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