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Linden Christian soars highest in contest of Wings
And on the seventh try, the Linden Christian Wings finally got the miracle they were waiting for.
The varsity girls’ volleyball team from the Linden Woods school had faced the Westgate Mennonite Collegiate Wings six times over the course of the season, and all six times had come up short.
Now they had one last shot at their rivals — and this time, on Nov. 24, it was for the provincial AAA championship.
"We had mixed emotions going into that game," said Linden captain LaDawn Friesen. "We knew we had the skills to beat them, but we knew we needed a miracle."
Whether it was divine intervention or just a matter of saving their best game for last, the Wings won a hard-fought three-set match, 26-24, 21-25, 15-11, to capture their first provincial title since 2005.
"Because they beat us so many times already, I think they expected to have their way in the beginning," said Friesen, a Linden Woods resident who was named tournament MVP. "But we played our hearts out, and played with utter joy. We just had a stronger mental game."
For most of the Wings, the championship was the culmination of many years of volleyball together. All but three of the players are in Grade 11, and have been playing together at the school since Grade 7. Friesen and one other teammate moved up to play varsity in Grade 10 last year, something that made them stronger this season.
"This was a long time coming," said coach Jennifer Bergmann. "This is definitely the next step in their progression. We knew before the season there was some potential there, but our only goal was top three at provincials. We definitely exceeded expectations."
Bergmann said the team’s attitude was as instrumental in its success as its on-court skills.
"It’s a group that’s tight on and off the court," she said. "They’re true champions, a stand-up group. They had great attitudes, win or lose, throughout the season. They fought hard and worked hard."
The team truly started to believe it could win it all after beating Calvin Christian School in five sets in the zone final, Bergmann said. With two weeks off between zones and provincials, the Wings stepped up the intensity in practice and came into the final event riding a wave of confidence.
The Wings went undefeated through the round robin portion of the tournament, and then edged Calvin in a three-set semifinal.
The team had legions of fans make the trip to Lorette to watch the final, giving the players an extra boost of energy.
"It’s been eight years since any team has won a provincial championship," Friesen said. "Because of how well we played, the school came out to support us."
And those who made the drive saw an improbable result before their very eyes.
"We pray before every game," Friesen said. "Because we know we have God on our side, no matter what anything is possible."
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