VOL­LEY­BALL

Vy­dykhan leads Chee­tahs’ ti­tle hunt

The Chronicle Herald (Provincial) - - SPORTS - GE­ORGE MYRER gmyrer@her­ald.ca @GMyrer

Talia Vy­dykhan has had a lot to cel­e­brate in 2019.

The 17-year-old from Ham­monds Plains is in Vol­ley­ball Canada's pipe­line af­ter mak­ing the na­tional youth team as an al­ter­nate this sum­mer.

Two weeks ago she com­mit­ted to play for the Dal­housie Tigers, one of the top vol­ley­ball teams in U Sports over the last sev­eral sea­sons.

But the star left-side hit­ter for the C.P. Allen Chee­tahs would like to add a Nova Sco­tia School Ath­letic Fed­er­a­tion Divi­sion 1 girls' vol­ley­ball ti­tle to her list of ac­com­plish­ments be­fore the cal­en­dar turns to 2020.

Vy­dykhan and her tal­ented C.P. Allen Chee­tahs team­mates en­ter the pro­vin­cial tour­na­ment at Riverview high school in Cox­heath as the No.1 seed.

“I'm so ex­cited be­cause last year we didn't make it to provin­cials and this year be­ing ranked No. 1, it's su­per ex­cit­ing,” said Vy­dykhan.

The Chee­tahs have al­ready had an amaz­ing sea­son with a 38-2 record.

But the C.P. Allen girls want to go out in style by win­ning the school's first pro­vin­cial girls' vol­ley­ball cham­pi­onship.

The Chee­tahs got a big boost with the re­turn of head coach Jor­dan Brooks, who took a year off to con­tinue his ed­u­ca­tion in New Brunswick. In the two pre­vi­ous years, Brooks led C.P. Allen to a pair of bronze-medal fin­ishes.

“I think Jor­dan com­ing back was a big part of it, we re­ally needed that coach­ing and com­pet­i­tive­ness,” said Vy­dykhan. “Our team has a re­ally good bond and chem­istry. There is a ton of sup­port and we're all very pos­i­tive, com­pet­i­tive play­ers which re­ally helps.”

Brooks, who won three NSSAF ti­tles as a player at Sackville High School, be­lieves last year's fail­ure to make provin­cials was an eye-opener for the Chee­tahs.

“Last year the team didn't have near the suc­cess they wanted and I think it's a form of mo­ti­va­tion, a wakeup call that it takes more than tal­ent to have suc­cess,” said Brooks. “I think with them hav­ing that bad taste in their mouth, it has re­ally pushed them to work their hard­est, to have a suc­cess­ful sea­son this year.”

Brooks said the Chee­tahs have a lineup loaded with height and tal­ent and that is a big ad­van­tage.

“Talia is the top player in the prov­ince and in my opin­ion, I think this team has two or three of the other top play­ers in the prov­ince,” said Brooks. “When you have a re­ally strong player like Talia sur­rounded by other fan­tas­tic play­ers, it makes it re­ally hard for the other side to know where the ball is go­ing to go (on of­fence).”

Other key play­ers are left-side hit­ter Alessan­dra Nadilini, right­side Ly­dia Green, mid­dle hit­ter Tara Mer­rick, who are all five­foot-nine or taller.

With all that of­fen­sive fire­power, Brooks needed some­one to de­liver the ball to them.

“A big part of our suc­cess is our set­ter, Gabby Scol­lard,” said Brooks. “She took a year off vol­ley­ball last year and de­cided at the last minute to come back and play (this year).

"Gabby doesn't get as much credit as she de­serves. She has come in and taken on, what I con­sider the most im­por­tant role, and has done fan­tas­tic. Hon­estly, we wouldn't be where we are if she had de­cided not to play.”

Even with a star-stud­ded lineup, a pro­vin­cial girls' ti­tle is not guar­an­teed with teams such as the Cobe­quid Cougars, the No. 2 seed in the draw.

“This year is su­per com­pet­i­tive, ev­ery team that is go­ing to provin­cials can beat any­one,” said Brooks. “You have to show up.

“CEC is there ev­ery sin­gle year, Mr. (Bob) Piers has won like 19 pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onships over his ca­reer and he comes sec­ond ev­ery year he doesn't win it. We know they come into provin­cials re­ally good ev­ery year. Lock­view and Hal­i­fax West are also fan­tas­tic teams.”

C.P. Allen is in a pool with Riverview, Park View and Hal­i­fax West while Cobe­quid will bat­tle with Horton, Lock­view and Syd­ney Academy. Matches be­gin on Fri­day at 1 p.m. with the cham­pi­onship match at 4 p.m. on Satur­day.

Vy­dykhan said they know there is a target on their backs as the No. 1 seed.

“When we are in high-pres­sure sit­u­a­tions we tend to stay pretty calm,” said the Chee­tahs' co-cap­tain. “When it comes to im­por­tant times we are re­ally com­pet­i­tive, re­ally con­fi­dent and that's what we are go­ing to bring this week­end.”

Brooks has no doubt that Vy­dykhan will be ready on Fri­day. He has had a front-row seat to watch her devel­op­ment and gushes about her abil­ity and lead­er­ship skills.

“Her serve is so big, it seems she al­ways get­ting four or five points ev­ery time she goes back to the ser­vice line,” said Brooks. “She's al­ways been some­one who could hit the ball and serve the ball re­ally hard and she's got fan­tas­tic skills for some­one her height. When you com­bine height and strength with skills, it's not some­thing you see ev­ery day and a big part of why she is such a spe­cial player.

“But the big thing we've been im­pressed with is her ma­tu­rity level and abil­ity to lead our team.”

DIVI­SION 2

A new cham­pion will be crowned in the tour­na­ment at Port Hawkes­bury's Strait Area Ed­u­ca­tion Recre­ation Cen­tre this week­end.

SAERC is in a pool with South Colchester, Digby and Mill­wood while Par-en-Bas, Som­met, Clare and Richmond will bat­tle in the other pool.

DIVI­SION 3

Pom­quet will host in a quest for its first NSSAF girls' ti­tle. Pom­quet fresh of a Northum­ber­land Re­gion ti­tle win will take on Sa­cred Heart, NDA and East Antigo­nish in pool A. In­ver­ness, Drum­lin, Hants North and Ecole Truro are in pool B.

ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

C.P. Allen Chee­tahs' Talia Vy­dykhan warms up prior to a prac­tice on Mon­day. Vy­dykhan leads the No. 1 seeded Chee­tahs into the NSSAF Divi­sion 1 girls' pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship at Riverview high school in Cox­heath.

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