By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the Lakeshore News on Dec. 22, 2016
For the athletics program at St. Anne’s Catholic High School, the championships are rolling in. The St. Anne’s Saints girls’ basketball and boys’ volleyball teams are freshly off taking all four WECSSAA crowns this past November.
Saints’ basketball had a superb fall season. The girls’ junior and senior teams were both successful in taking the Windsor-Essex ‘AAA’ title.
After finishing their season with a 9-1 score, the senior girls thumped the Massey Mustangs in the league semifinals by a 72-24 score. Maddie Bardoel led in scoring with 20 points, followed by Anna Ulicny with 12 and Claire Lamarre with 10. Later, on Nov. 13, the girls trounced the Holy Names Crusaders, 62-33, in the city final. The Saints were led by Lamarre with 24 points, Ulicny with 16 and Liv Norris with 10.
“I think what helped us was that we came into the [championship] game really confident,” opined Ulicny, a grade 12 students at St. Anne’s.
Ulicny, who is considering the University of Windsor next year, credits the athleticism of her teammates for their victories.
“We were quick, we had the speed, we moved the ball really nicely,” said Ulicny. “It was like it was meant to be because we connected in some way that other teams don’t have.”
The Saints moved on to the SWOSSA championship, where they went neck-and-neck with Sarnia’s Northern Collegiate.
Northern, the third-ranked team in the province, found St. Anne’s a tough match.
“We played our style of game, we put pressure on them and we didn’t back down,” said Ulicny.
Despite a tie game after the third quarter, Northern was able to pull away in the fourth and end the Saints’ season.
Coach Bob Loebach felt fortunate to have coached his girls, saying they were a “group of hard working, talented, high character athletes who worked together to achieve their goals.”
The junior squad posted a 9-2 season record and demolishing Massey 42-11 in the semis, before engaged in a nail-biting final with Holy Names on Nov. 13.
Winning 42-38, the Saints used the offensive prowess of Maddy Rozic and the defensive intensity of Allie Levac to lockdown the win.
“It was our strongest game,” explained Rozic, a grade nine student who enjoys music, math, and science. “Holy Names had a very good game and it could have been anybody’s victory, but we played very well and we came out very strong.”
Rozic credits the interpersonal relationships of her teammates and their coach, Chris Rayner, for their success.
“I think it also helped that we were [all] best friends,” said Rozic. “We just had a great time. Win-or-lose we were just a great team, and our coach, Chris Rayner, helped us develop and just get better individually and, as well, playing as a team.”
Rayner reciprocated the feelings expressed by Rozic.
“It was outstanding,” assessed Rayner. “They really exceeded expectations and grasped onto everything we committed to. Honestly, it was a dream team to coach.”
Boys’ volleyball also had a successful year. The junior and senior teams each bumped, set and spiked their way to ‘AAA’ Windsor-Essex championships, with the juniors also claiming the SWOSSA title.
“The junior boys’ volleyball team consistently improved throughout the season and peaked during playoffs,” said coach Stacey Ditchfield. “[My players] are great advocates for the school and represent the true meaning of student-athlete.”
After starting their season with an 8-4 record, the juniors walked away with an impressive victory over Holy Names in the city final and leveled Sarnia’s Great Lakes Secondary School in the SWOSSA championship.
“I think my team did a great job of working hard and powering through the whole year,” said Andrew Ogley, a member of the victorious junior team.
Ogley, a grade ten, is an avid math student. He also plays Saints basketball in the winter.
“We have a pretty big rivalry against Holy Names in pretty well every sport – especially volleyball,” said Ogley. “Last year, Holy Names was actually the team that eliminated us from the finals, so this is the year we wanted to get our revenge and beat them.”
The junior team defeated Holy Names and Great Lakes, as well as Villanova in the semifinal, in straight sets.
The senior club had a successful year as well. A second place finish in their division (10-2), left them in a good position to strike at their fourth consecutive city title.
After polishing off Villanova in straight sets on Nov. 7, St. Anne’s would trek over to Holy Names two days later.
University prospect and league all-star Blake Ondricko set the scene: “It was packed in [the Holy Names] gym, I have never seen it so full. There were people standing; there were a bunch of students, 30 or 40, sitting in front of the bleachers. Every time we’d dive over there, they’d be yelling at you. It was a great atmosphere.”
The Crusaders took the first set 25-21, but the Saints swept the next three, including a tight 25-23 fourth set, to clinch.
“Winning with this team was special,” explained coach Steve Burke. “We were not picked to win and nobody felt we were a championship team and, yet, these boys committed to making the team better and worked hard to win the city championship.”
Not long after winning WECSSAA, the senior team’s season was ended by the Chatham-Kent Hawks in straight sets. The Hawks are a perennial powerhouse and constant fixture at the Ontario championships.
“[The season] was great, after stumbling earlier in the year, it just made it that much sweeter,” said Ondricko. “It’s not like we steamrolled everybody all year and knew we were going to win. It was a tough year, so it was really nice to pull out that championship. It was even more special because I got to play with my brother [Logan] for the first time.”
St. Anne’s students have a smorgasbord of sports to choose from. In the fall alone, there is football, gold, tennis, and cross-country running as well.
As it is now the winter sports season, the teams will swap places and the girls’ volleyball clubs and boys’ basketball teams will have their chance to shine.
“St. Anne’s has had a history of excellence,” says Mark Ficon, director of athletics. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of good coaches and good athletes at the school.”