Humber women’s volleyball wins seventh straight OCAA championship

Reporter: Luke Callebert

The Humber Hawks won the team’s seventh straight OCAA provincial championship, beating the Fanshawe Falcons 3-1 in the gold medal final. The set scores were 22-25, 25-16, 25-10 and 25-22. The game was hosted by Durham College at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre.

“[Winning my seventh] feels better than my sixth, I can tell you that,” said Humber head coach Chris Wilkins. “It’s awesome. We have a great group of girls. This weekend wasn’t easy, for sure. We knew we were going to be in tough and it was nice to see our big players step up when we needed them to. It was really nice to see us compete and come out on top.”

Fanshawe came out looking nervous in the first set, allowing a free ball to fall in between four players, but overcame the jitters to compete point-for-point with Humber. The biggest lead of the set came late, when Fanshawe had a 24-20 lead. Humber would rally but fall short. The Falcons won the first set 25-22

From there, it was all Hawks. Specifically, the reigning three-time OCAA women’s volleyball player of the year, Kelly Nyhof.

Humber came out hot in the second, jumping out to a 7-1 lead. It wasn’t over for Fanshawe, who stormed right back to tie it, 7-7. It seemed like the Falcons emptied the tank getting back into the game, though, falling right back into a 16-8 deficit. But there was a glimmer of hope for the Falcons late in the set.

Down 22-11, middle Stephanie Bignell went on a four-serve run, including an ace to bring the score to 22-15. Nyhof closed the door, though, with a huge kill. Humber would finish the set off and win 25-16.

Nyhof completely took over the game in third, with eight kills in the set alone. Nyhof’s teammate Thalia Hanniman added one of her two service aces, and other than a pair of beautiful down-the-line kills by Ashley Hosfield of the Falcons, the set was all Humber. By the end of the set, it looked like Fanshawe was reeling. Humber won the set 25-10.

The fourth set was more like the first, with Fanshawe going point for point with Humber. In the end, it was Nyhof and Humber’s night. The Hawks held on against a late surge from the Falcons and won the final set 25-22, securing the seventh straight OCAA title for the school, and for Nyhof in her final OCAA game.

“It’s been great [playing with Nyhof], she’s a great leader,” said Hanniman. “She’s confident but doesn’t oversell it.”

Wilkins shared the sentiment.

“She’s a special player for sure. She’s a leader. I can look to her when we need her to sort of take over matches. She’s a great all-around person. It’s going to be tough to see her go.”

Nyhof, finished with 27 kills, three service aces and two blocked shots.

Nyhof wanted to focus on the game Fanshawe played.

“They played a tough game, they’ve been tough competitors all year,” she said. “We had the advantage of playing them a little bit throughout the season, which was great, whereas we hadn’t played Durham or Trent so we didn’t really know what to expect. With them we really had a game plan.”

There was a touching and classy moment in warm-up for the Durham audience, when the Hawks came out in purple T-shirts, in honour of Shane Christopher’s late daughter, Kaylyn, who passed away earlier in the season. Christopher is the Lords head coach.

“Shane’s a good friend of mine, and he lost someone close to him earlier this year,” said Wilkins. “Purple was her favourite colour and we thought we’d pay tribute while at Durham.”