Set for greatness


By Helena Shlapak

The Mohawk women’s cross country team won eight straight titles from 1982 – ‘89.

St. Clair has won four straight baseball championships dating back to the sport’s berth in 2013.

Cambrian picked up seven gold medals in badminton from ‘99-‘06.

No team has ever conquered a decade. Not until the Humber women’s volleyball team this year. These Hawks didn’t lose a game, regular season or playoff, going 130-0 for the last six seasons.

It was the beginning of the last set when Taylor Hutchinson, assistant coach and former player turned to her girls on the bench.

“We should just watch, not get caught up and just enjoy it,” she says. The Humber Hawks had nothing to fear. They had already won.

Hutchinson smiles as she reminisces about the winning game on Feb. 26, 2017, “We’re constantly trying to be better all the time. It’s just nice to kind of sit back and watch it happen.”

Head coach Chris Wilkins admits he shed a tear when the Hawks won. He knew all the hard work the girls and coaches had put in. He also knows that if there is an eleventh win, it wouldn’t mean as much as the tenth.

“It just sort of, put a finality on everything,” says Wilkins.

“I don’t think it will actually hit me until I’m done volleyball and I’m bored again with my life,” says Alexandra Newman, a fifth-year star who lead the team in sets played for the past two seasons.

“It feels pretty amazing and I’m very proud of every person who has come through the program and the girls I’m playing with today,” says Newman.

The Hawks knew that nine-straight championships had put a target on their back. Some teams crumble under the expectation of perfection, but Wilkins says this team thrived on it.

“Sometimes (as an athlete) maybe you only fall under pressure once or two times in your career. These girls are living the pressure every game,” says Wilkins, “We’ve built up such a reputation that, they don’t want to lose a game, they don’t want to play poorly, they want to play well for each other. It allows us to get through tough games and be able to truly be ready,”

“Every year we lose a couple of pieces but the core group tends to stay together. It helps groom the next core group that comes along,” says Wilkins,  “the girls enjoy playing with each other, I think they enjoy playing with me and the school so it just creates an atmosphere where people want to come and be a part of something special like that.”

Wilkins says he was happy to see great chemistry all-round, “the veterans really took on the rookies, and the rookies really pushed the veterans. It was fun to watch.”

Despite Humber’s success there were hiccups along the way. Elizabeth Deakin-Poot, a third-year middle and most consistent player with hit percentages for the past two seasons north of .400, was out for three months with an injury.

Wilkins says Deakin-Poot was still able to be a positive for the team all year even only having played in 11 games.

“She’s the person that says the right thing at the right time on the court when things are maybe not working,” says Wilkins.

Celine Blanchette, first-year setter feels like her team and her school is like a second family and is a testament to the low turnover of the team.

“There’s a family-like atmosphere. Everyone’s so supportive, even the fans and the workers here. I’m really enjoying it, I’m going to be here awhile,” says Blanchette.

Winning provinicals meant the Hawks would be one of eight teams heading to Victoria, B.C. to play in the CCAA championship between March 9-10. Unfortunately, Humber finished in last place.

Newman says that for future players, they should enjoy the time they have on the team, regardless of what happens.

“Enjoy every success, enjoy every failure,” she says.

While this may have been a blow to the Hawks, it doesn’t take away from all the hard work they have put in or talent that these players have.

“There’s an illusion that you can’t push women athletes as hard as you can push men,” says Wilkins.  “That’s completely an illusion. I think I push harder than most coaches push their men’s teams.”

“We went out there to take what was ours,” says Newman. “We are a talented team but we also work very hard. We deserve all the success we’ve had because we worked for it.”