In what is being seen as a resounding success, Ontario Volleyball is thrilled with the record number of teams participating on 58 courts under one roof at the Enercare Centre in Toronto at this year’s Ontario Championships. These championships featured 901 teams during two events that started on April 20 and wrapped on the 25th.
Jo-Anne Ljublicic, Ontario Volleyball’s Executive Director was on hand not only as a passionate fan but as a leader in the sport who wondered about the lingering effects of the pandemic and lockdowns on the sport. The proof is in the pudding. “It feels great to be walking around the Enercare Centre and seeing athletes ‘in the zone.’ We acknowledged there was no guarantee that we would see the same amount of enthusiasm and participation as we returned to normal and yet here it is. This event was for our athletes at all levels, and their passion for volleyball in Ontario fuels our own,” said Jo-Anne with pride.
Jo-Anne also recognizes that ‘it takes a village’. “Without the hard work and support of the clubs, coaches and referees, really the entire Ontario Volleyball community, none of this would have been possible.”
As mentioned, this was an event for the athletes, their friends, and families. According to Chris Deck, proud Dad of 15-year-old Alice Drouin Deck who plays ‘middle’ for the 15 UG, division 3 Puma Smashers, watching his daughter win gold was ‘surreal’ but the entire experience of the OVA tournament was unreal.
In explaining why these championships were memorable for the Deck family, Chris said: “Alice just loves volleyball. She loved being part of a team, growing her skills and pushing herself to the limit. Playing at the championships also meant representing the Puma team and our small rural area in Eastern Ontario amongst many capable teams from larger urban centres. The experience was unforgettable.”
So many people were invested in making this event a success from the staff to the players to the parents and other fans in the stands. The vibe in the Enercare Centre was electric. “I do not think I have ever experienced the feeling I had watching Alice compete on the last day. Three of her four games went into a third set and the scores were always very close,” Chris commented. “All the teams we competed against were so strong and determined and it was kind of bittersweet seeing the parents and players of other teams have to pack-up and go home after they lost games against the Pumas. We knew it could just as easily have been Alice's team being the ones to go home given the similar caliber of all the teams. My hands were sore from clapping, voices were sore from cheering and cheeks were wet from crying.”
Taking a step forward to eventually be included as a category within an integrated Ontario Championships is sitting volleyball. Team Variety Village and the Durham Attack SV, squared off in a lively demonstration which highlighted athleticism, strategy, and the spirit of friendly competition. Just another highlight from the Ontario Volleyball family.
“This event was a long time in the making,” said Alishia Lidums, Director of Volleyball Operations. “It was a goal of the OVA’s last strategic planning cycle to secure and run a festival-style event at Enercare Centre. Unfortunately, COVID-19 derailed our best-laid plans, and the inaugural event was canceled in 2020 to the heartbreak of all involved. Fast forward three years and the staff put their blood, sweat, and tears into making the 2023 Ontario Championship event a reality for its members.”
Recognizing that this event could only have happened with lots of help, Alishia commented, “I want to thank a large group of people that helped make this year’s event a success. First of all, a huge thank you to the OVA staff for all of their hard work behind the scenes to deliver a tournament of this size. Thank you to the 37 Referee Development Team members who put in many long hours of planning and event delivery including Assignors, Head Referees, Mentors and Area Supervisors. Thank you to the 180 working referees that were on the stand of all 58 courts each day. And finally, we couldn’t have pulled this event off without the support of our valued partners at Enercare Centre, Destination Toronto and. Hudson Travel Group We look forward to doing it all over again in 2026 when we’re back at Enercare Centre for Ontario Championships!”
Congratulations to everyone who made the trek to Toronto!
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