It took five years but the volleyball team Olympic medallist John Child helped put together, and Melvin Lowe helped coach, has won provincial gold.
Leaside Lightning Red cleaned up against Scarborough Eclipse, winning 2-0 (25-15, 25-22), in the Ontario Volleyball Association’s
18U final April 25–27 in Waterloo.
They threatened at the nationals May 9–11, too, but after posting a 3-0 record in the preliminary round were ousted from gold medal contention by Victoria Titans of Saanichton, B.C. and then lost the bronze medal match to the Dinos out of Calgary.
Child, Lowe and team captain Tia Miric, a student at Bishop Strachan School in Forest Hill, all attributed the provincial victory to some key moves made during the past year.
“I’ve been around volleyball for a long time, so I’m sure I was able to help the girls with their development, starting with these girls when they were in Grade 8 and 9, and keeping them on the right track to win a provincial championship,” Child told the Town Crier in an early-May interview.
The same group of girls Child has developed, including Leaside High School’s Zoe Mackintosh, earned silver at both the provincial and national level last year in the 17U division. Not wanting to settle for second best, the team looked for the extra edge.
Enter new additions from Scarborough Titans: Chanel Raymundo, a libero, and Aja Gyimah, outside hitter, as well as head coach Gaby Gobst.
“At the beginning of this season, Melvin was our only head coach, and then we had Gaby come in halfway in the season, and honestly I think it was one of the best things that could have happened to us,” Miric said. “We’ve become a completely different team.”
Lowe said he couldn’t be happier.
“It’s quite the accomplishment after so many years of playing in the OVA,” he said of the girls, the majority of whom will be heading off to university next year.
Both Child and Lowe were reticent to point out who performed the best, only because the team played as a single unit for the entire provincial tournament.
“It was a team effort and nobody really stood out,” Child said. “It was very balanced from start to finish for everyone.”
Lowe was a little less bashful, once coaxed, lauding the four members of the team who were named all-stars at the provincials.
They include Gyimah and Raymundo, as well as left outside hitter Gabriel Maciagowski of Greenwood College School and Alex Poletto of De La Salle.
Though revved up and putting on an impressive show in the nationals, they lost 2-0 (25-20, 28-26) in the semis and 2-0 (25-21,
25-20) in the bronze medal game.