They represented the smallest school in the competition, but the Westgate Wings had big plans Saturday night.
Drawing from a high school population of only about 200 students, the top-ranked Wings finished the 2021 season in style, blitzing the Vincent Massey Trojans in straight games (25-22, 25-23, 25-21) to claim the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association AAAA varsity boys volleyball title at the Sturgeon Heights Collegiate gym.
Westgate, classified a AAA school due to size, opted to play at the next level and went 30-0 to claim its first AAAA provincial title since 1978.
The Wings played seven sets Saturday on their way to ending the 43-year championship drought but the workload had minimal impact.
"Honestly, I felt a little tired at the start of warm-up before our final game but then your adrenaline just sort of kicked in and we were all fired up and we were ready to go," said Westgate setter Sammy Ludwig, who was named the tournament’s MVP.
"It’s just a bunch of great guys. Everybody just wants to go out, try their hardest, have fun and everybody performed super-well and we won it."
In semifinal action earlier in the day, Westgate dispatched the fourth-seeded Steinbach Sabres 3-1 (21-25, 25-11, 25-15, 25-22).
The seventh-seeded Trojans, meanwhile, went the distance to beat the No. 6 Jeanne-Sauvé Olympiens 3-2 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
In the final, Westgate was relentless on the attack and it was tournament all-star Rowan Krahn who emphatically hammered home the final two points of the third and deciding set.
"He’s been fantastic all season but today it was just like on another level," said Ludwig, who will play for the University of Manitoba next season. "He just played unreal. It’s like every time I gave him the ball he put it on the floor.
"I’ve got confidence in all the guys on the court. They can go up and they can get a kill. And that’s what they did for us and it was amazing. Especially Rowan — he was awesome today."
Curiously, Massey and Westgate had not met on the court prior to Saturday, limiting any advance scouting.
"We didn’t have a lot to go off of," said Ludwig. "But the important thing is that we just play our game on our side of the court and then we can beat any team. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing on their side."
Vincent Massey coach Marshall Jones said the lack of familiarity helped his team a bit but Westgate’s power and consistency carried the day.
"I certainly knew we were going to have to play our best match and get a little bit lucky and hope that they would make some mistakes and give us some opportunities," said Jones. "I think they played quite well.
"We were trying to serve them in certain zones to make their (service) receive a little bit more challenging and they (would) get a little bit more predictable if we could execute that.
"We were doing that but they were still really good out there. Both their left sides spikers are both very talented."
The varsity boys tournament all-star team: Luke Carlson, Vincent Massey; Daniel Wilson, Jeanne-Sauvé; Nolan Gawne, Westgate; Rowan Krahn, Westgate; Cole McQueen, Vincent Massey; and Jordan Heppner, Steinbach.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.