CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Three Oaks Axemen grabbed momentum in the second set and never let it go Saturday en route to their fourth straight Prince Edward Island School Athletic Association Grant Thornton senior AAA boys’ volleyball championship.
Grade 11 Ben MacDougall had the title-winning smash to complete the 3-1 (23-25, 25-21, 25-8, 25-13) victory over the Bluefield Bobcats at Charlottetown Rural High School.
“We had that play drawn up and we worked on it in practice a couple of days, so it was nice that it worked out a couple of times during the game,” MacDougall said.
The victory meant setter Brandon Hastings, who was named the tournament MVP, ended his career with another title.
“It’s good to win with the guys,” he said. “We’ve been all together forever, so it’s really good to end off my volleyball career with all of them.”
The Bobcats won the first set, but it was a close affair with no team holding a larger than four-point advantage during the set. The second set was tight throughout before Three Oaks took a 22-21 lead late.
MacDougall had a hit off a block and Morgan Caseley had the set-winning hit to tie the contest 1-1.
Three Oaks scored the first four points of the third set, built an 8-4 lead, scored the next four points and never looked back.
Hastings said head coach Dale MacDougall during the season went by a saying that if the team lost a set, the opponents had poked the bear.
“So, when they poke the bear, we wake up,” Hastings said, noting he wasn’t surprised the team roared back after losing the close first set. “I knew we could do it. In the semis, we lost our first set and came back and won two straight after that.”
Dale MacDougall said nerves might have played a factor in the first set, but his guys responded.
“The boys dug their heels in and were ready to go,” he said. “Momentum is so huge in this sport.”
He pointed to the work Stephen Boyd had done with the squad in previous years as the school had won three straight titles and were used to being in pressure situations in big games.
“We had good fan support here today too which helped with momentum and making the guys feel good about themselves,” he said. “(I’m) very proud of each and every one of them.”
Bluefield head coach Lynn Boudreau said her boys played really well during the first two sets, but in the third Three Oaks turned up the pressure with tough, low-to-the net serves.
“We made two or three errors and they gained momentum,” she said, noting they were unable to slow the Axemen’s charge.
“It didn't matter who we subbed (or) when we called timeout,” Boudreau said. “We hit a bunch of balls out where we had to put them in the court to at least give ourselves a chance.”
She said it was the Bobcats’ first tournament final of the season while the Axemen have been there many times this season.
“So, we don't have that experience.”
The Bobcats will lose six Grade 12s, but the veterans have shown their younger teammates what it means to play volleyball for Bluefield.
“It’s sad to see them end their career,” Boudreau said, noting Nathan Wills, Ethan Arsenault-Saunders and Aike Wilting, in particular, really bought into the vision the Bobcats have for their program. “For me, it’s not all about being a volleyball player. It’s about being a good citizen and a good person. They are three fantastic leaders.”
Charlottetown Rural defeated Westisle 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-9) in the bronze medal match.
A look at the award winners from the Prince Edward Island School Athletic Association Grant Thornton senior AAA boys’ volleyball championship.
All-stars – Morgan Caseley and Ben MacDougall from Three Oaks and Bluefield’s Nathan Wills.
MVP – Three Oaks setter Brandon Hastings.
A look at the past five Prince Edward Island School Athletic Association senior AAA boys’ volleyball champions.
2017-18 Three Oaks
2016-17 Three Oaks
2015-16 Three Oaks
2014-15 Charlottetown Rural
2013-14 Westisle Composite