ARS Armenian School Of Toronto Volleyball Team Wins First Championship Banner
ARS Armenian School Of Toronto Volleyball Team Wins First Championship Banner –
March 3rd 2016 was a very special day in the history of the ARS Armenian private school. This was the first time that the ARS school was selected to host the SSAF high school girls’ volleyball championship tournament.
The ARS school is a member of SSAF (Small Schools Athletic Federation). The SSAF is an organized league that runs many different sports throughout the year. The ARS school has always been known for its academic excellence. Three years ago athletic director Alex Movel set out to develop an athletic program that would add athletic achievement to academic excellence. He recruited volunteer coaches Sam Manougian and Jack Hagop Kakousian and started a training program for the girls’ volleyball team at the elementary and high school levels. For the first few years the teams struggled as they faced more experienced teams. However the players never gave up and continued to work hard and started to develop their skills and teamwork. Every year their results slowly improved.
This year the ARS high school girls’ volleyball team finished their regular season in first place and at the top of a very strong North Division. As a result, they were invited to participate in the SSAF championship tournament on March 3 which this year was held in their home court at the ARS school. The top 4 teams in each division came together for an all day tournament. The tournament draw was made up of 2 pools of 4 teams each. Each team would play a round-robin match with each of the other 3 teams in their pool. The ARS team which finished in 1st place in the North Division was in the same pool with Bond Academy and Linden College who finish 2nd and 3rd in the South Division as well as Pace which finished 4th in the North Division. The games got underway and the ARS gym was full of spectators and students.
The ARS team finished their 3 round-robin games in 1st place with a perfect undefeated record. When all the round-robin games were finished, the semi-finals would match the 1st place in pool A with the 2nd place in pool B and the 1st place in pool B with the 2nd place in pool A. In the semi-final game ARS faced a very strong Peoples Church Academy team. PCA had narrowly beaten ARS in the regular season. It was a very close and hard fought game. However, it seems that ARS was eager to avenge their loss to PCA in the regular season and came out on top winning 2 games straight.
The ARS team advance to the championship game to face a very strong team from Town Centre Montessori. The gym was packed with students and supporters. It was a very close game and the lead changed several times. With each point that ARS scored there would be a tremendous roar and cheering from the crowd. The championship game was at the end of a long day of volleyball and you could tell that many of the players were getting very tired. But each player pushed on to their limits. The ARS team fought hard point after point. They continued to set up team captain and power hitter Liza Babaoglu who smashed the ball repeatedly and buried it into the opposition court to the roar of the crowd. As the final whistle blew, the ARS team was victorious and it was sheer pandemonium. The packed gymnasium exploded with cheers. The ARS team finished the tournament with a perfect record and was undefeated. As the team and the fans celebrated they raised the championship banner high and proud to be champions.
Marina Avaneci and Alique Barsamian are 2 of the senior members of the ARS high school girls’ volleyball team and are both graduating this year. When they were asked how they felt after the game, they were a little emotional and replied with “We are so proud of our teammates. Everyone worked so hard this year and our goal was to win a championship banner for the school before we graduated. We have been working towards this championship for the last 3 years. We will always remember this day.”
After the game athletic director Alex Movel was smiling from ear to ear. When asked for his thoughts of the championship he replied with “We planted the seeds 3 years ago and this year we are finally reaping the rewards. With the help of our volunteer coaches, we have put together a solid girls’ volleyball program that will continue to grow for the next several years. The ARS school can now proudly say that we offer a balanced education with both academic excellence and athletic achievement”.
Coach Jack Hagop Kakousian said “Although 2 of our senior players are graduating this year but we have an excellent group of young grade 9 students that will carry on the tradition. Our girls’ volleyball program is built on a solid foundation.”
Captain Liza Babaoglu provided the leadership the team needed on and off the court. She said “All the players supported each other. It was a team victory. We were focused on our goal but also had lots of fun playing volleyball this year. Thank you to all our coaches”.
The route to the championship was not an easy one as all the girls attended morning practices diligently and worked together towards their common goal. From their experience, the players learned that hard work, dedication and teamwork are the corner-stones of success. When they put their mind to it they can accomplish anything. They also learned that there are no short cuts to success. If you want something bad enough, you have to be willing to work for it. These are important and valuable lessons that they learned from their experience in volleyball this year. They will carry these tools with them. It will help them to be successful not only with their current school work and also with their future careers.
This championship victory was very important for many reasons. Of course it brought the first volleyball championship to the school but more importantly it placed the ARS school on the map as all the other schools are now talking about the successful volleyball program at ARS school.
Now the championship banner hangs proudly in the ARS gymnasium for all to see and as a constant reminder of their achievement. Every time the girls see the banner, they are reminded of what can be accomplished if you have a goal and are willing to work for it. The younger students see the banner and say “I am going to work hard, become a better athlete and win a championship banner for the school before I graduate.”
It was an incredible journey this year but it is only the beginning. Congratulation girls, we are very proud of you. You are the champions. You have provided a lot of excitement and pride for the school. Enjoy your accomplishments and prepare for bigger challenges next year.
By Sam Manougian