Badgers earn national championship berth in thrilling comeback

Photo by: Brenden Cowan

Bob Davis Gymnasium was prickling with energy well before the first serve of the March 11 women’s volleyball match. Playing in front of a crowd that sold out only hours after tickets went on sale, the Brock women’s volleyball team had a chance to repeat as OUA Quigley Cup champions and secure their placement in the U SPORTS championship.

The Quigley Cup caps off what has been a week full of recognition for the Badgers.

Athletes Sara Rohr, Aleiah Torres, Sadie Dick and Grace Pyatt were all named to the OUA all-stars first team for their outstanding play this season.

Additionally, head coach Steve Delaney won the OUA coach of the year for the third consecutive year.

Facing off from the other side of the court was the Queen’s University Gaels, who featured a number of the OUA’s all-stars. Middle Lauren Mellon and outside Hannah Duchesneau were both named to the OUA first team, while outside Mary Stewart was a second-team all-star.

The Gaels finished seventh in the OUA after dropping all of their final five games, including two straight-set losses to the Badgers in February.

However, come playoff time, the Gaels had completely righted the ship.

Queen’s had won both of their matches in straight-sets en-route to their Quigley Cup appearance, and were primed and ready to prevent the Badgers from repeating as provincial champions. However, in front of a raucous home crowd, keeping their composure would be difficult.

Queen’s’ momentum going into the game was evident in the first two sets.

Set one was a back and forth affair, with both sides going on big scoring runs and the lead changing hands a number of times.

Brock put themselves in a winning position late in the first, going up 21-19 off a block. Queen’s would close the set off, scoring seven of the final ten points, winning 26-24.

Queen’s carried their victory into the second set, and though Brock would keep the score close in the early stages, this set felt more like they were surviving on the court then fighting back. Brock struggled mightily to get past Queens’ strong blocking presence, surrendering many points at their net. Queen’s fended off the Badgers’ early efforts, held their edge, and took the second set off an ace by a resounding 25-16 score.

For Brock, a team that had only dropped two matches all season, this was very unfamiliar territory. Besides a tactical reset to counter Queens’ blocking, the Badger’s likely also needed a mental one.

Set three had all the markings of a team fighting to keep their season alive.

In a thrilling set that saw the lead change hands eight times, the Badgers and the Gaels traded blows down the stretch. Brock seemed once again to have a stranglehold on the match, up 24-21, but two quick kills put Queen’s within one. Thankfully, Gigi Markotic subbed in and ended the drama, sending a hit off a Queen’s blocker for a 25-23 win.

Queen’s, who’d only barely been staved off, got right back on their horse in set four, jumping out to a quick 6-1 lead before expanding that to 9-3.

Brock spent the rest of the set slowly closing the gap, but approaching the set’s conclusion, it seemed that all of their hard work would be for naught.

Tied at 19, Queen’s scored three straight to go up 22-19. Brock managed to get two more before Queen’s upped the score to 23-22. Again Brock added two more, before Queen’s scored one to put themselves in position to take home the provincial title.

A kill by Grace Pyatt and a missed hit by Queen’s put Brock up by one to fend off elimination, before Queen’s evened up the score at 25.

A block by Sara Rohr and another kill by Pyatt got the Badgers the final two points, and forced a playoff set against Queen’s.

Maybe it was the energy in the gym, but going into set five, you could feel the momentum on the Badgers side. It didn’t feel like anything was going to prevent this team from getting back to their unfinished business in the national championship.

The whole set was back-and-forth. Neither team could gain much of an edge, but Queen’s threatened to steal the title, going up 13-11.

Nevertheless, in a wonderful moment for the Badgers, hometown athlete and in her fifth year of eligibility, Grace Pyatt punched three straight kills to put the Badgers in winning position, before sealing the victory with a huge block to win 15-13.

Pyatt had an overall outstanding game with 17 kills and ten blocks. Sadie Dick also stuffed the stat sheet, with 17 kills, six blocks, two assists and 13 digs. Rohr, of course, had 46 assists, while Torres, naturally, had a game-high 20 digs.

Brock will now head to the University of British Columbia for the U SPORTS National Championship, which will take place in Vancouver from March 17–18. The Badgers, the sole OUA team competing at the Canadian tournament, will take part for the second year in a row, after placing sixth in last year’s Tournament. Follow along on for more information as it becomes available.

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