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Road Warrior Colts Stun Lords on Their Home Turf

It was all smiles for the Centennial Colts as they beat the Durham Lords for the first time in program history, winning in straight sets on the road. Mari Pikkov left her mark in the game, leading all scorers with 18 points.
It was all smiles for the Centennial Colts as they beat the Durham Lords for the first time in program history, winning in straight sets on the road. Mari Pikkov left her mark in the game, leading all scorers with 18 points.

Until today, the Centennial Colts women's volleyball program had not won against the Durham Lords since coming back into the OCAA in 2015. 

After a massive kill from Elizabeth Chow to end the match, Durham Lords broadcaster John Lodge said, "The Colts have come in here and shocked the Lords."

Attention, Mr. Lodge. This was no shocker, especially with how this game went.

Centennial came into Durham and won their first ever game against the Lords, winning in straight sets (25-22, 25-19, 25-13). The win was the second straight for the Colts and improved their record to 5-3 on the season. The Lords, meanwhile, fall to 6-3.

"It was a very emotional win for us," Mari Pikkov said. "We wanted to go in to it just guns blazing but so often, we kind of let the gas pedal go off instead of keeping it on the entire match. The fact that we were able to really continue and push through everything (was huge); it was a really big moment for the team."

Pikkov led all scorers with 18 points on a game high 15 kills and a game high three service aces. Lizzie Bowers scored 11 points on 10 kills while Shanelle Woods had a team high four blocks and Chow had a game high eight digs.

"Lizzie (Chow) has been a really good addition to our left side rotation because we lost one of our hardest hitters in Trsycelle (Lin) last year," Pikkov said. "She's been super consistent yet she's a rookie and still developing skills." 

Centennial left side Heather Sanchez, filling in as setter after injuries to Nadjema Soro and Mellin Carmichael, dished out a game high 32 assists. This, despite having very little experience at the position at the college level.

"Coming into it, she had never set at an OCAA level. The fact that she's been able to really step up and take over that role is big," Pikkov said. "If we didn't have her, we'd be struggling very hard."

The Colts outpaced the Lords in kills (43-20), assists (38-20), service aces (5-0), and digs (38-25).

Despite the dominance in the straight sets win, this was considered to be an upset in the OCAA, as Centennial was the underdog for the last two seasons.

"You just kind of take it with a grain of salt," Pikkov said. "Everyone always looks at us as the underdog team. What matters most is whoever walks off the court with a win."

Centennial came out flying in the first set, scoring seven of the first eight points as they forced an early timeout from Durham. But the Lords came storming back to tie the set at 13. The Colts led 23-21 late in the set but a lob kill from Bowers that just went in turned the tide in their favour and a kill from Pikkov capped off a 25-22 first set win for Centennial.

Durham found a way to start off much better in the second set, taking a 15-10 lead midway through. Centennial was looking for an answer.

"In previous years, whenever we've been down, we've really struggled with coming back up because we were normally a team that once we get down, we never figured out a way to push through," Pikkov said. "But this year, we've really been able to take a step forward and we've owned and accepted the fact that we just have to fight a little bit harder."

Despite being down five points, the Colts scored the next six points to take the lead and after Durham tied the set at 17, Pikkov's three straight aces led a 8-2 Colts run to end the set at 25-19 in favour of Centennial.

"We didn't even think about that," Pikkov said. "Half of the time, we don't even look at the score; we're playing point-by-point."

The Colts scored six of the first seven points in the third set and didn't look back from there, winning the third set easily, 25-13, and the match.

Centennial ended the two-game road trip, winning both games against Durham and the Canadore Panthers, The turning point for the Colts came when they came back from two sets down against the Panthers and won the match in five sets.

"I kind of had a moment when I was giving a very strongly worded pep talk," Pikkov said, laughing. "We just needed to snap out of it and start playing at our level and the way that we know we can play. We were able to sweep them in three straight after that."

Heading into Wednesday's game against the winless George Brown Huskies, Pikkov says that they cannot take them for granted.

"We won't change our game plan; we prep for George Brown the same way we prepped for Durham," Pikkov said. "We want to make sure we don't play down to anyone's level."

Pikkov, however, had an immense feeling of satisfaction in winning its first game against Durham in front of a stunned Lords crowd, especially after seeing the frustration of the Lords' coach in trying to search for answers.

"He assumed that he would walk out onto that court and his team would sweep us in three and we just handed it back to them, sweeping them in three," Pikkov said. "It's satisfying."