Vikings fall to Huskies in AAAA final four


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WINNIPEG — There may as well be an “I” in Brooke Duncalfe.

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WINNIPEG — There may as well be an “I” in Brooke Duncalfe.

Sure, it took a decent night from the rest of the Sturgeon Heights Huskies varsity girls’ volleyball team to upset the No. 1-ranked Vincent Massey Vikings, but they’re through to the AAAA final because their superstar was the best player on the Investors Group Athletic Centre floor on Wednesday.

Duncalfe racked up 25 kills as the fourth-seed Huskies beat the Vikings 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20).

“We went in knowing she was their top player, basically their team. My hat’s off to her,” said Massey co-captain Ella Werbiski. “She played amazing, that was one of her best games and it goes to show, that’s why they beat us because she was playing really well.”

The first set was all Duncalfe, the province’s No. 3 ranked player in the Winnipeg Free Press coaches poll.

The six-foot-two left side picked up four kills before heading to the service line tied 7-7. She went on a five-point run to lead 12-7.

Tiana Low sparked a Massey comeback, picking up a few blocks in the middle as Massey made it 14-13 Huskies while Duncalfe was in the back row.

But the Huskies star racked up five more kills to stay ahead 19-16 before serving again.

The Vikings chipped away and cut the deficit to 23-22 on a Low ace, but she caught the top tape of the net with her next serve and Duncalfe hammered home her 10th kill of the set to go up 1-0.

The set could have gone either way, still, thanks to Low’s six points scored.

“I just tried to ignore the crowd, ignore the screams,” Low said. “Thank God for the practice before just to get used to the environment … and that really helped me out.”

The Huskies made a few more errors in the second set as the Vikings built up a 16-12 advantage. Duncalfe went on one more roll, racking up six kills to bring it back to 20-20.

Massey setter Ava Plamondon went to Grade 11 middle Mackenzie Lyburn for a key middle kill to make it 22-21, and then Duncalfe did the rest for the Vikings. She tipped a ball wide, then hit straight into a Massey double-block to bring up set point.

Duncalfe served out the back three points later to tie the match 1-1.

The teams traded blows with just a few mini-runs to 18-18 in the third, including four straight points ended on Duncalfe swings. Two found the court, the others found Lyburn’s arms for stuff blocks.

But Sturgeon took four of the next five points to lead 22-19 on a few Massey miscues.

The Vikings didn’t pass well enough the rest of the way, giving away a few points to fall behind 2-1 in the match.

Massey’s passing simply broke down from there. Sturgeon established a 15-7 lead with one ace after another, and that was too big a hole to overcome.

Massey coach Mike DeGroot said his group refused to believe that until it was over.

“I’ve been on teams where you get beat but this team, even in timeouts were not panicking,” he said. “They still had the belief they could come back and win and there were some positive signs in the fourth set that made us actually believe they could win.”

The Vikings made one desperate four-point run to push it to 23-20, then gave up a kill off their block and mishandled the ensuing serve for a match-ending ace.

“Brooke Duncalfe had the best game she’s had against us,” DeGroot said. “I’ve seen her have those good games against other teams. Every time they’ve played us, she’s been decent, don’t get me wrong, but she hasn’t had that stellar performance until tonight. Everything she touched turned to gold. She’s totally deserving of all the accolades.

“Her supporting cast played some really good defence. They got the ball up, refused to let it hit the floor and that kind of grit is what you need to move on in a tournament like this.”

Werbiski led Massey with 13 kills and 22 digs while libero Lexi Brown also dug 22 balls.

Low put up four kills and five blocks but finished her high school career five nights earlier than she’d have liked.

“I’m OK with it,” Low said. “Obviously I wish we could have won … but they had a really good game, props to them. They deserved it more than us. We’ll try to get it back in club season.”

The second semifinal between the No. 2 Vincent Massey Trojans and No. 6 Selkirk Royals was still in progress at press time. The final is Monday at 6 p.m.

For Werbiski, the semifinal on the big stage felt more like a beginning than an ending.

“The big crowd, O Canada was playing, it kind of felt like what a U Sports game would be like,” said the University of Winnipeg Wesmen commit. “It’s a learning moment for what it’s going to take when you get to that level. You got to fight hard, never give up.”


» Twitter: @thomasmfriesen

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