By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The St. Mary’s Auroras are the ASAA 1A Provincial Champions for 2023. On Nov. 22, the team made the trek to Peace River for the year’s ultimate tournament. The competition began on Nov. 23 with round robin play and was organized into three power pools. The teams ranked from 1-4, 5-8, and 9-12 were in pools together. The Auroras went into the tournament ranked first, and that landed them in the toughest pool.
Their first game was against the Paul Rowe Raiders from Manning. Assistant coach Carolyn Siemens described it. “We came out flat, struggled to pass the ball well, and lost 13-25. Heading into the second game we knew we needed to improve our passing and play. The girls were able to regain focus and win the second set 25-23. The split sent us into a third match where we once again struggled and took a 13-15 loss. The girls were feeling defeated after that, but we knew we could play better. They regrouped for our second game against Consort later in the day and we were able to take a win in the match 25-14, 25-15. This game helped calm some nerves and give us some confidence for the next day of play.”
On Thursday/Friday, they had their final round robin game of pool play against Ecole Des Beaux-Lacs from Bonnyville. The Auroras won the first game 25-21, but lost the second 20-25. “Heading into the third we knew we would be in tough,” Siemens said. “We ended up again struggling with the pass and to find the court. When we switched sides we were down 3-8. Once we switched sides, Bonnyville started to struggle to pass the ball and we were able to capitalize on it. Makayla Schwarz served the ball really well for us and we took the match 15-9. We were able to outscore them 12 to 1 to take the win. This solidified a second place finish for us in our pool and gave us a bye into the quarter finals.”
Later that day, the girls played a quarter-final match against Trochu. “They were a lower ranked team but they came to play. They played impressive defense and made our team work hard. We saw many great rallies and plays throughout the match, we were able to take the win 25-23, 25-21 to make us top four and send us to the semi-final game,” Siemens said.
Saturday was the final round of the tournament. In the semi-final game, the Auroras played St. Thomas Moore from Fairview. “They had some height to them and we knew we had to defend tough attacks coming out of the middle and left side,” Siemens said. “The girls again played really well, showing poise and composure and took the match 25-20 and 25-16. That win put us in the championship final where we met Ecole Des Beaux-Lacs from Bonnyville again. We knew since they had lost to us in round robin play they would want to win. In the gold medal game everyone is giving their all. Our girls showed up to play. We were able to get an early lead of 13-1 when they struggled to get a pass from Logan Meier’s serve. With a strong lead, great defense, and finding the court, we won the first game 25-16.”
In the second game, the Auroras remained consistent, getting big hits from Schwarz and Kennedy Planger. “Some solid defense from the girls got us a 25-19 victory and the Championship banner. This really was a weekend of teamwork among our girls and having trust and confidence in themselves and their teammates.”
“Our setters, Jewel Muller and Kenzie Siemens were able to put the ball in good spots for our hitters. Taryn Cranston was able to get some key blocks and digs for us, and our grade tens, Jayna Grimson, Anisa Cranston, Kinsey Ducharme and Sam Anderson were able to step in and fill roles when needed.”
“At the beginning of the season we talked about our goal being a Zone banner, we reached that goal and we were happy to be able to represent the south zone at the Provincial Championship. Heading into Provincials we realized we had a real shot at winning the Provincial Championship and the Auroras had their goal as bringing home the banner for our wall. We haven’t put a provincial banner on our wall since 2010 and we are looking forward to adding the 2023 one! We are thankful for the support from our parents, school and community, in particular the Taber Titans, Taber Kinsmen, the Knights of Columbus and the Friends of St. Mary’s for helping us on our Provincial journey.”