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Thunder stunned by Niagara

The Algonquin Thunder women’s volleyball team saw their season come to a stunning and disappointing end Feb. 17, losing 3-2 to the Niagara Knights in a crossover match to determine which team would advance to the OCAA Championship tournament.

The Thunder took the first two sets, but saw their lead evaporate in front of a raucous home crowd.

The first set was a competitive affair, with the score remaining close throughout. The Thunder would prevail 25-23 and carry that momentum into the second set, opening up a 15-8 lead to start the set. Niagara would claw their way back, but Algonquin still came out on top, taking the set 25-20.

Things got off to a slow start for the Thunder in the third set, as Niagara dictated the pace and went on to win the set 25-12.

The fourth set was a wild and emotional one, as the teams traded points. One that appeared to go in favour of the Thunder was overturned and awarded to Niagara, sending the home crowd into a chorus of disapproval.

The Thunder would recover and get the score to 24-23, one point away from advancing to the OCAA tournament. However, Niagara bounced back and took the set 27-25 to send the game to a fifth and deciding set.

In the final set, the Thunder struggled to get into a rhythm, as Niagara pulled away to secure the victory by winning the set 15-8.

Following the season-ending game, the home crowd showered the Thunder with a standing ovation.

After winning the first two sets, Niagara started showing signs of life, which Thunder coach Everton Senior said was at least somewhat expected.

“Typically, when you win the first two sets against a good team, usually there’s a lull, and I was kind of expecting that. And I said to the girls, the first 10 points are very important in a set, because we want to put doubt in their minds,” said Senior. “We got off to the slow start and we could never recover. But I knew that we would come back in the fourth. We were looking at the fourth set being the tell-tale set, because I knew we were kind of running out of energy a little bit towards the end. I wanted that set and we were within a hair of closing it out.”

The loss was certainly not the way the team envisioned their season ending, but Senior was still pleased with their performance.

“They’re disappointed in the loss, but I’m not disappointed in the way they played and that’s what we talked about,” he said. “At the end of the day, you want to feel good about the match that we played, and they’re feeling good about the match that we played.”

Fifth-year player Serah Rounds-Zavitz, who was playing in her final season with the Thunder, was still happy with her team’s effort, despite the disappointing finish.

“We played hard, so I’m really happy with how we played this game. We left it all out there and that’s all I can ask from them,” said Rounds-Zavitz. “We’re a young team with a lot of talent, and I think it’s just key that they build that mental toughness for their future career.”

While it wasn’t the storybook ending that most would want, Rounds-Zavitz was still happy with the team’s performance.

“You know, I prepared for it. I knew that it could have gone either way,” she said. “It would’ve been awesome to go to provincials, but it is what it is. There’s no regrets in how we played.”

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