BY JOSH BURY
Conestoga College’s Lady Condors had their best season ever and, a mere three years after the women’s varsity volleyball program was restarted, the team can boast that they made it to the playoffs.
Head coach Marek Gwozdz said that the team’s achievements this year should be a source of pride for both the school and the team itself.
“Overall, I’m tremendously proud of what we achieved this season … the difference between the first few matches and the last few is like night and day,” Gwozdz said.
He credits their solid defensive efforts for a substantial part of their success.
The team finished 10-8 in their regular season campaign, but the season got off to a rocky start that included a string of four losses.
The team turned it around with an eight-game winning streak that lasted from Nov. 23 to Jan. 15.
Their fourth-place finish in the West was good enough to get them to a qualifying game against the East’s fourth seed, Canadore College, at home on Feb. 15. The winner advanced to the playoff quarter-final.
The Condors went up two games and looked to close out the best-of-three, but weren’t able to pull the trigger. Canadore battled back, forcing a fifth and final game and, after six possible match points, Conestoga closed out the game.
“It was a thriller. We had a tremendous game … it’s a historical win,” Gwozdz said.
Conestoga’s Stephanie Hoey had 15 kills, 18 points and three service aces in that game, earning her the OCAA female athlete of the week for her efforts.
Conestoga advanced to the quarter-final round, where they faced the first seed in the East, Seneca College. Seneca lost only two games all season, and proved to be too much for the Condors despite some close sets.
This sent the Condors to the bronze quarter-final, where they could have competed for the right to play for bronze. But Georgian College ended the Condors’ playoff hopes by winning three straight sets.
“The season is long and the girls were tired,” Gwozdz said of the loss.
And while the season ended as a result, the Condors earned accolades along the way.
Brieanne Gallant earned the OCAA’s women’s volleyball rookie of the year, and made the West division’s first-team all-stars and the all-rookie team.
Mallory O’Hara led the Condors in points, and was selected for the second-team all-star squad in the West and the all-rookie team.
With both of these rookies eligible for play next year, the Condors can build on what they started. Gwozdz said he plans on returning to coach the team again.
He credits the team’s whole roster, along with support staff like athletic co-ordinator Marlene Ford, with the team’s success. But he said that the team will have a goal to aim for next year.
“The bar has been set.”