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Falcons edge Muskies in five-set marathon to open NWOSSAA final

St. Ignatius and Fort Frances will tangle again on Wednesday in their best-of-three series.
St. Ignatius' Emma Durham goes up against Fort Frances' Payton Dolyny and Calleigh Councillor (14) on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 at the St. Ignatius gym, in the first game of their best-of-three NWOSSAA girls volleyball final. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – The St. Ignatius Falcons are a win away from a trip to provincials.

Getting this close wasn’t easy.

The Falcons needed every trick – and every point – up their sleeve on Tuesday night, eking out a five-set home-court victory over the NORWOSSA champion Fort Frances Muskies to claim the early advantage in their best-of-three NWOSSAA championship.

Maia Peterson said it was an intense five sets, but that’s nothing new for the Falcons, who upset the Westgate Tigers in five sets last week in the Superior Secondary Schools Athletic Association final to earn a spot in the regional final.

“I guess we like giving the fans a show. Every game is like this now. But it was really good. When we were low it was because our communication was off and we weren’t really being positive. But we got right back in it and came out with the win, so I’m happy with that,” Peterson said.

The first set was a sign of things to come.

Neither team led by more than three points at any stage of the set, and the lead changed seven times before St. Ignatius pulled out a 25-22 win.

The second set was all Muskies.

They jumped in front 14-5, thanks to an 11-3 run, and didn’t allow the Falcons back in, prevailing 25-12, a dominating set that appeared to swing the momentum back in their direction.

Not so fast.

The Falcons had other ideas of their own, and raced out to a 16-1 lead to start the third.

Olivia Cupp helped key the second of two runs, serving up nine straight points before Fort Frances was able to respond.

“I try my best to get it in sometimes, not even thinking about where to put it. I’m just trying to get it in,” Cupp said.

The Muskies did battle back from the 15-point deficit, getting as close as 24-16, but a Peterson spike gave St. Ignatius the point it needed to close out the set and they led 2-1.

The comeback did give Fort Frances some life, and once again they took control, a 7-0 giving them a 13-4 lead. They scored six of the next seven points and went on to even the match with a 25-12 victory.

The fifth set delivered as promised, both teams holding the lead twice early on.

But it was the Falcons who went ahead 4-3 and never trailed, though the Muskies did erase a 13-9 St. Ignatius lead and tied things up 14 apiece.

Peterson spiked the Falcons back in front and Abby Clowes tipped the ball just out of the reach of Fort Frances setter Serena Cousineau for the game-winning point in a 16-14 set. 

“I think it was really important to establish (the first win),” Peterson said. “Now we’re not playing a catch-up game. We’re kind of like the team to beat right now, right?”

The Muskies might have something to say about that on Wednesday, starting in Game 2, scheduled for noon at the St. Ignatius gym. Game 3, if necessary, goes later in the day.

The winner of the series goes to OFSAA in Sydenham, Ont. starting March 6. 

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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