ST. PAUL - After a few hard fought battles and perfectly times comebacks, this year's St. Paul Athletics Association (SPAA) junior high volleyball banners went to the Racette Jr. High School boys' team, and the Two Hills School girls' team.
The junior high level championship tournament took place on Nov. 22, with games being played at gymnasiums throughout St. Paul.
After round robin play, the teams moved into semi-finals and the day wrapped up with a final gold-medal game on each side.
On the girls' end, it would be two rivals that would come face-to-face on the court, battling it out for the banner.
Two Hills coach Mike Lo says the final game was a great match against Racette Jr. High.
"We have always had a rival with Racette, and our girls for the most part have fallen short against them," says Lo. "So, my girls were very nervous to play them and it showed at the beginning of the first set."
Lo says the Two Hills team came out flat and their nerves showed, but as the game progressed, they eased into it and starting playing better.
The first set was a very close match, with both teams battling back and forth and trading points. In the end, Two Hills won the set.
The second set started the same way, with both teams trading points back and forth.
"But, my girls took the lead after 15 and never looked back, winning the second set," and sealing the win.
"I am so proud of these girls for their dedication, determination, and hard work this year. They played a great final and I am so happy for them. It's great to see our Grade 9 players ending their junior high season on a high note," adds Lo.
On the boys' side, Racette went into the semi-finals in second place, after losing a close game to FG Miller out of Elk Point in the round robin. The game went to three sets, with Elk Point ultimately winning, and taking first place in the pool, which meant Racette would have to take on the first place team in the other pool - Two Hills - in the semi-finals.
"I thought the way we played defensively was the difference in the semis," said Racette's coach Aaron Christensen. "Two Hills has a couple of the top hitters and our blockers were outstanding and our back row defence dug a lot of tough hits."
Grabbing a spot in the finals, the Racette boys would once again find themselves matched up against the FG Miller squad, giving themselves the opportunity to redeem their round robin loss.
"I thought the boys really played well, especially after losing the first set," says Christensen. "They were never down on themselves and kept competing. I liked that we supported each other after mistakes."
The Racette boys had to battle back after being down to the Elk Point team early in the second set, but found a way to tie up the game and give themselves a lead.
In the second and third sets, Christensen says the boys' serving came on strong and was the difference maker for the Racette Raiders.
"Offensively, we also started to hit a bit more and our defence was able to limit a lot of what FG Miller was trying to do."
The junior high tournament wraps up the volleyball season for the young athletes. Next up for schools sports in the area is curling and basketball.