Bobcats win back-to-back LKSSAA volleyball championships

The Blenheim Bobcats defended their LKSSAA 'A' senior girls' volleyball title with a four-set win over the Pain Court Patriotes on Friday.

Blenheim Bobcats' Laurin Ainsworth (8) receives a ball from the Pain Court Patriotes during the LKSSAA 'A' senior girls' volleyball final at Blenheim District High School in Blenheim, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

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BLENHEIM – The Blenheim Bobcats are no strangers to big matches, but that didn’t help them to avoid having butterflies Friday night.

The Bobcats shook off their pre-game jitters to beat the Pain Court Patriotes 3-1 at Blenheim District High School for their second straight LKSSAA ‘A’ senior girls’ volleyball title and third in four years.

“We were all kind of nervous going out and had a slow mojo going on,” Bobcats middle Laurin Ainsworth said. “But after getting out there, we got excited. It was definitely nerve-racking. A few of the girls were saying they were nervous and had the shakes.”

Even Ainsworth, a Team Ontario player, felt that way about potentially her final high school match.

“Every time, you still get nervous,” said Ainsworth, a four-year senior. “That doesn’t ever go away.”

The Bobcats won 25-15, 25-12, 20-25, 25-18 to advance to the SWOSSAA final.

“We definitely wanted it again, to go to SWOSSAA,” Bobcats’ Emma Park said. “We made it. It was kind of a scare, but we made it. We’re excited.”

The Bobcats have six Grade 12 players (Ainsworth, Park, Kristyn Kistulinec, Erin Jenner, Olivia Deschryver and Asia Campbell) who are good friends. One more win sends them to the OFSAA tournament, although Ainsworth said that wasn’t the goal when the season began.

“As our last year, we really were excited to all play together and just have fun, and then the outcome was the outcome,” she said. “And then as the season went on, we realized we’re doing really good. In my eyes, I saw that I wanted to go to OFSAA for our last year especially.”

The Bobcats got a little too confident after winning the first two sets, Park said.

They fell behind early in the third set before rallying for a 16-15 lead, but the Patriotes finished on a 10-4 run to stave off elimination.

“We were, I think, getting full of it, and then it went downhill,” Park said. “But we brought ourselves back up to win (in the fourth).”

The Bobcats have a Grade 12-heavy lineup. Only two players – Anna Kistulinec and Sophia Doyle – are expected to return next season.

The Patriotes, on the other hand, have only two Grade 12 players. They’re a young team with high expectations for next season when almost everyone can come back.

“The girls played really well,” Patriotes coach Holly Dysarz said. “They play very well as a team, so I’m very proud of everyone that played today. …

“Next year, hopefully we find ourselves in the same predicament (in the final).”

The Patriotes have a deep roster, which came in handy this season when they ran into some injuries.

“It’s good that our players have all stepped up and everybody did a wonderful job tonight,” Dysarz said.

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