Sara Charlton was already certain that the match, Sunday afternoon, versus the St Clair Saints, was going to be an emotional one. One of two fifth year members of the Cambrian Golden Shield women’s volleyball team – libero Emily Redwood is the other – Charlton was suiting up for the last time in her career, in front of the Cambrian crowd in Sudbury.
But an emphatic shout and fist pump, following a huge block in the fifth set, that gave her team a 13-7 lead, suggested that there was even more emotion in play than the Owen Sound native might have ever anticipated.
“There was a lot going through my mind,” said Charlton, mere moments after the Golden Shield posted a wild 28-26, 22-25, 19-25, 25-23, 15-7 victory over St Clair, helping to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“This is my last home game, so I wanted a victory,” she continued. “If we won this game, we lock in a cross-over game for the playoffs, and I really want to go the OCAA championships in my last year.”
For a stretch, in the fourth set, that dream appeared to be fading fast, as the Saints overcame a tough opening set loss, taking the next two, and leading at various stages of the fourth. “They’re big girls,” said Charlton.
“They are going to block, they are going to hit; they’re a good team. We had to definitely adjust to what they were doing. I didn’t execute very well. I had to get better in that fifth set.”
If the Saints relied heavily on the one-two punch of Shalena Horst and Helen Wiebe, Cambrian countered with a more balanced approach. The likes of Hayley Chisholm, Charlton, Amanda Kring, Jillian Vallier and Kelsey Watson all took turns sharing the spotlight on the attack.
“All the hitters want to get set all the time, but that’s not realistic,” said Watson with a laugh. Keeping the attack options open helps to keep the defense honest, and even more so when the system is run to perfection. “It’s a lot easier when we have that perfect three pass, because our middles take blockers away, and you’re hitting one on one on the outside,” added Watson.
A second year right-side out of the Barrie area, Watson acknowledged that the experienced presence of head coach Dale Beausoleil is much appreciated in the heat of the battle. “We definitely had to calm down on serve receive,” she said.
“Once we get in that rut, we get really jumpy, and our passing isn’t the best. But was a team, we tend to do really well in fifth sets.” And that was key, as the Golden Shield now await the final OCAA regular season game between the Sheridan Bruins (9-8) and the Niagara Knights (12-5).
St Clair, Cambrian and the Redeemer Royals are already log-jammed in fourth place in the OCAA West, all at 10-8, with Sheridan looking to join that mix with a win versus Niagara. Given that there are but three playoff positions to be filled, there could still be an odd man out, though tie-breakers favour the Shield.
Which means one more venue in which Charlton can enjoy the swan song of her college career. “I’m not from town, and I came here five years ago, not knowing anybody,” said the veteran middle.
“But they welcomed me right in. They’re basically my family here. That’s the greatest thing.”