The George McDougall Mustangs Senior Varsity Boys Volleyball team season ended in fairy-tale fashion on Nov. 25, as the boys were crowned provincial champions for the first time in 18 years.
After winning the 3A Zones for the first time in nine years, George McDougall beat the St. Albert Catholic High School team in dominating fashion to win the provincial title, ending a season with an overall record of 37-8.
“At the beginning of the year we did have some talking about goal setting and our lofty goal was to bring home three banners this year, and we did it,” said George McDougall coach Hayley Wenaas.
The team played with an incredibly sharp focus in the final against St. Albert, said Wenaas. “[They] just did not take their foot off the gas the whole game…it was really cool to see the culmination of the season's work really come together.”
Wenaas said it was the team's incredible bond that kept them sharp throughout the year. “They are all genuine friends,” she said. “Obviously [there’s] competition within a team, but they’re never been against each other. They’ve always just tried to lift each other up and become better.”
Aside from the pure talent belonging to the players that litter the George McDougall roster, Wenaas credit’s the team's championship win on the players’ mental toughness.
“I think that their ability to work on the mental game is the biggest piece that helped us be successful,” she said.
George McDougall lost to the W.H. Croxford Cavalier's, George McDougall’s crosstown rival, but losses like that only added to the learning experiences that benefitted the George McDougall boys as the playoffs wound down to provincials. In the league championship, George McDougall beat Croxford in five sets to claim the league banner.
“We figured out what our weak spots were and we worked on them every single day,” said Wenaas. “We worked on our passing every single day and our mental game is really what gave us the edge at the end of the season.”
Wenaas said that the team's motto “of always be relentless, never stop,” quickly became a rallying cry as playoffs approached.
“[The players] took my words that I said to them at the beginning of the year and they made it a part of who they wanted to be at practice and at our games,” said Wenaas.
For the last two years, the boys on the senior team have played with each other on the junior varsity team, which was coached by Wenaas. As they made the jump to senior varsity this season, Wenaas reminded them all how far they had come. She showed them a picture that she had of them dating back to their first couple games together two years previously.
“You guys have come so far,” she said to them then. “Might as well just go all the way. There is no reason you can’t.”