It has been a couple weeks since they were crowned provincial champions, but for Brooke Wallace and her teammates, in a lot of ways, it is still sinking in for the East Antigonish Academy Mustangs.
“I am still pretty shocked,” the power player said.
The Division 3 girls’ volleyball squad captured the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF) title with a two-set championship match victory over École NDA of Chéticamp.
“They were focussed since day one. It was a great way to end the season,” Mustang head coach Dwayne Mattie said.
After winning NSSAF bronze last season, he noted, players – in both individual and team meetings – made the commitment to shooting for the top of the podium in 2018.
“It was the goal and everyone bought in,” Mattie said.
The Mustangs medalled in every tournament in which they played, including four consecutive golden performances to wrap-up the season.
“We had contributions from so many players, but they have been the foundation of our team,” Mattie said of Wallace, Morgan Mattie and Brooke Breen.
The Grade 12 trio, who served as team captains this season, have played together for years.
“They know more than I do,” Mattie quipped.
He added “they have a lot of experience and they were the leaders of this team.”
The NSSAF gold medal is the latest achievement for the student-athletes, who started their stellar run as Mustangs with a JAGAS banner in Grade 8.
“We were pretty calm,” Breen, a setter, said of the 25-17, 25-20 championship victory over École NDA.
Mattie, noting the leadership of veteran head coach Gerry Cormier, described it as a hard-fought match.
“We have played each other a lot, so there weren’t many surprises,” the Mustang head coach noted.
After her team secured championship point, Breen said she had an “emotional reaction.”
“But they didn’t cry,” she noted, as everyone laughed, of her co-captains.
Their coach admitted it was a challenge for him to hold back the tears.
“I kept it together,” Mattie said.
They noted the win, for the most part, only started to sink in on the drive home from provincials.
For that final match – as was the case throughout the season – the Mustangs received tremendous fan support.
“They were always cheering – really loudly,” Morgan Mattie, also a setter, said.
Dwayne noted the fans waved banners throughout, ones the team collected throughout the season at each tournament.
When asked about highlights of their championship season, the foursome pointed to the team’s dramatic win over the rival École acadienne de Pomquet Panthers for the Northumberland region banner.
“It was an amazing comeback,” Wallace said.
Trailing 9-1 in the third-and-deciding set, the Mustangs rallied for a 15-10 win.
The veteran head coach noted the team continues to receive praise for that effort.
“I think we were more excited after that and then we calmed down; we knew what we had to do at provincials to be successful,” Morgan Mattie said.
The top-of-the-podium performance is the latest chapter in a story of commitment to and love for the sport at the East, which also plays at the club and community levels, including weekly Wednesday evening mixed action at the school.
“It is part of the fabric of the community,” Mattie said, noting playing volleyball is a tradition for many families.
The Mustang trio also gives back to the sport that has given so much to them, including coaching the East’s junior team to a championship this season.
“They have made great progress,” Mattie noted of their coaching effort with the mixed team.
Two of them are also certified NSSAF officials.
After graduation, each player wants to continue in the sport, with Wallace, who wants to be a teacher, considering suiting up for the Mount Saint Vincent Mystics of Bedford.
Mattie will attend NSCC to study for certification as an LPN, while Breen has her mind set on post-secondary education in human kinetics.
“They have given so much to the game; no wonder they have been successful,” their head coach said.
“And, that will continue in whatever they do in their lives.”