The Kinkora Blazers just may have become the cardiac kids of the P.E.I. School Athletic Association (PEISAA) Senior A Girls Volleyball League.
The Blazers recently pulled out a five-set thrilling victory over the Evangeline Coyotes in the gold-medal match in Souris.
“It feels awesome," said Blazers setter Shaelynn McCardle, who was named the most valuable player of the provincial championship tournament. “For the Grade 11 girls it’s our fourth year in a row winning (a provincial championship, which includes two in intermediate A), but it definitely does not feel any less special. It’s an awesome feeling.”
The Blazers won the first two sets – 25-21, 25-11 – of the final and Evangeline rallied to win the next two – 25-22, 25-18. That set the stage for the deciding fifth set, which Kinkora won 15-11 as co-captain and provincial championship tournament all-star Faith Reeves served the match’s final three points to clinch back-to-back provincial championships.
“They like to give me a little bit of stress,” quipped Blazers head coach Evan Killorn. “They like to make it tough on me and make me coach them hard.”
That victory came after Kinkora overcame dropping the opening set of its semifinal match against Souris and had to rally from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Charlottetown Rural in a five-set quarter-final match a few days before the one-day provincial championship.
“We had a well-rounded team and our strength was we did not give up,” said the 16-year-old McCardle, who is from Kinkora. “Refuse to lose was a big part of our season.”
The provincial championship capped a perfect 13-0 (won-lost) campaign for the Blazers, including a 10-0 regular-season mark and a 3-0 resumé in the playoffs.
“It’s pretty incredible (to go undefeated),” said Killorn. “At some point, you expect to lose a match here and there.
“It’s a learning experience and a lot of time they got down they figured out how to win. Out of our 13 matches, I think we played five or six five-set matches.”
The gold-medal victory carried special significance for Kinkora senior middle player Charlotte Linkletter of Bedeque.
“Last year, when my team got to go to provincials and play for the gold, I had a concussion so I wasn’t allowed to compete and cheered on from the bench,” explained Linkletter, 17. “As my first and last time getting to play in high school volleyball provincials, it was an amazing feeling to win and the best way to end my high school volleyball career.”
Asked how winning volleyball gold compared to some of her other sporting accomplishments, Linkletter offered: “I have been pretty lucky to have lots of opportunities in sports and go to different places and win different championships. Most of them have been in hockey, but it was nice to win in a different sport.
“It does have a different feel, it’s a completely different team and different teammates. It just felt really good to win it with all the girls on my team.”
Keys to success
Killorn credited the players' dedication and said the current Blazers’ run of success did not just happen overnight.
“It comes from a lot of years of hard work from the girls trying to establish a culture around the community that volleyball can be a big part of the school. They bought into coming to practice every day in the fall, coming to play in the spring and they have relished it.
"They feel it is a big accomplishment. They enjoy the game and having players who enjoy the game makes it a lot more fun to coach. They want to be there and they see the value in what you have to say. It’s pretty incredible how committed they have been.”
Linkletter noted the important role strong team chemistry played for the Blazers.
“As a team, we had a lot of meetings before games and everybody focused on what made them feel better during games, whether it was somebody compliments them or telling them, ‘Hey, you got the next ball,’” said Linkletter. “We focused on the whole mental side of the game and I think that’s what helped us overcome all the obstacles we faced and come out with the gold medal.”
McCardle said the Blazers owe “a big part” of the team's success to Killorn.
“He puts so much time into our volleyball program and is a big factor in our team,” said McCardle. “He keeps our heads into it, keeps us motivated and we not only want to win for ourselves, but we also want to win for him for all the time he puts into our team.”
Killorn noted the experience of knowing what it takes to win proved invaluable when the stakes were raised this year.
“It seemed no matter the situation this year and when things were tight, they figured it out,” said Killorn. “They knew how to get the job done."
- Click here for story on PEISAA intermediate AA volleyball championships:
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- Click here for story on PEISAA intermediate A volleyball championships:
- PEISAA Senior A Girls Volleyball League provincial championship results:
- Kinkora defeated Montague 3-1 (25-27, 25-9, 25-21, 25-23).
- Evangeline defeated Souris 3-1 (25-19, 22-25, 25-20, 25-19).
- Bronze-Medal Match
- Souris defeated Montague 3-2 (26-24, 21-25, 9-25, 25-22, 16-14).
- Gold-Medal Match
- Kinkora defeated Evangeline 3-2 (25-21, 25-11, 22-25, 18-25, 15-11).