Lightning storm back to win provincial title
The wave of encouragement and support in the week leading up to the 3A provincial girls volleyball tournament worked as the Lightning claimed the title with a 25-15, 28-30, 16-14 win over St. James Regional High School.
© Danielle Shugarue photo
Leo Burke Academy earned the 3A provincial girls volleyball championship this past weekend in Bishop's Falls defeating St. James Regional High School. Members of the winning team are pictured; (front, from left): Jill Snow, Chad Richards (coach) and Penny Boone. Middle; (from left): Melissa Vincent, Brittany Antle, Marti Brace, Candice Bernard, Emily O'Reilly and Opal LeDrew. Back; (from left): Jade LeDrew and Marissa Earle.
"I'm very happy. We worked very hard for this and we worked for a long time since September working up to this - the coach put a lot of hard work into this," said Penny Boone. "I'm so proud of my coach and all my team members."
If the feelings leading up to the tournament were full of excitement, the emotions in the final moments were intense.
LBA went undefeated in the round robin and dominated Pasadena Academy 25-17, 25-16 in the semi-final for a rematch of last year's championship final against the Saints who took gold from the Lightning last year in Port-aux-Basques.
After taking the first set 25-15, Coach Chad Richards spoke to his team at the break and told them that they were half way to their goal they were going to run to the finish line - not walk. Chants of "LBA" filled the stadium when the squad took a one-set advantage.
The Lighting lost their spark in the second trailing the entire set until they tied it for the first time at 20-20.
Richards called Boone into the match to serve down 22-24 and brought it to championship point for the Lighting before the team lost serve.
The Saints brought it to set point when Brittany Antle missed a spike to allow a third set.
The emotions from the girls began to seep, with a few tears shed at the missed opportunity, before the start of the final set. Richards had to change his team's mentality.
"I told them to focus on the next set and focus on the play at hand," he said. "We had to forget about the previous set and get back to the game plan."
The pep talk worked as the Lightning came out ready to battle, which was important because the Saints weren't going home without a fight.
The set went back and forth until the end. LBA held a 13-11 lead after a false set by Jill Snow fooled St. James when it was gently tipped over the net. The Saints went up 14-13 before the Lightning stormed to even it at 14-all then 15-14 and tipped a return over the net for the necessary win by two.
"I'm really excited and surprised to a certain extent," Snow said after the win. "We won the first set and lost the second set, but we pulled through in the end."
All an elated Richards could say was that he was proud of his team.
"We worked hard all year and this was our goal from late last year and early September. Winning other tournaments was nice, but this is what we have been working towards," he said.
The Lightning did not have to think far back for experience in a comeback. They were down 18-23 against their rivals from Grand Falls-Windsor in their Nov. 27 tournament and fought back to earn the win.
"I felt pressure, but we're getting used to it now," said Snow. "I'll probably remember everybody cheering and being in the gym cheering for us last year it was the opposite so it was good to have the win."
Tears flowed freely for a team that had dedicated so much to a season, which clearly meant a lot to them personally.
"I'm going to remember my coach and my teammates (more than the win)," said Boone as she began choking up. "They're always there for me, not just with volleyball, and Chad is going to be there all through high school and is the best coach in the whole world."
"I was especially happy for the Grade 12 girls," said Richards. "They started with me in Grades 6 and 7 and we have been working towards this for so long, so to finally be here is incredible."
For the Lightning, it was the perfect end to another great season.
"Overall the season was fantastic," said Richards. "We worked hard and gave everything we had throughout the year. We had drops in the season, but we used those drops in performance to learn from and it all worked out."