By M. Salles
From the 1st to the 5th of March, our incredible volleyball players had the exciting opportunity to represent our Lions at the International Schools Sports League (ISSL) Tournament. After much hard work and litres of sweat since September of 2021, our athletes gave their best in every single game. Once they arrived, Friday the 1st, they went straight toward practice at the gym, and later on the day, they enjoyed their pleasant evening with an enthusiastic opening ceremony and with the other schools’ athletes, such as EABH (Escola Americana de Belo Horizonte), EAB (Escola Americana de Brasilia), EAR (Escola Americana de Recife), among others.
They officially began marking their territory there on the 2nd of March; the day the games began. The first game was against a previously unknown school for the Lions, EABH. It was a game like no other, some say that it was perhaps the Lions' best game there, but that is up for debate. The result from this first game was 1st set: 25 - 16 & 2nd set: 25 – 21. The team showed excellent communication, harmony, skill, and leadership. It was not an easy opponent to beat and there were times when the team lost its focus. For their second match of the day, our athletes played against Nations (International School of Rio de Janeiro). To our content, we beat this team as well, with an astounding result of 1st set: 25 – 10 & 2nd set: 25 – 8. The game was not too tough, and we were able to get our whole squad to the court to practice all our game. With two wins in our bag already from day one there, we not only qualified for the semi-finals on Monday but teams began to notice us. We spent the rest of our day watching matches and had a lovely Pizza Night in the restaurant on top of the mountain. It was a truly memorable ‘first day’ there.
Our second day in the tournament began with an amazing breakfast with the whole team and our Coach, Assistant Coach, and Sports Director. We were energized, given our results the previous day, and got ourselves all ready to go for our game only later that day. Our game was against the Pan American School of Bahia (PASB), another school which we had just met there. Once again, we secured another win for the Lions! With an even more surprising result of 1st set: 25 – 6 & 2nd set 25 – 10. After that game, we celebrated our undefeated status by hanging out, studying, exploring, training, bonding as a team, and spending lots of time in the physiotherapy room (which will forever be in our hearts with great gratitude). Not to mention, the zip lining activity which some of us decided to participate in - very thrilling! We went to bed early that day as well since we had an early morning practice session the next day.
Bright and early at 7 AM on a Monday, our athletes were up and running towards breakfast and then to their practice before their big semi-final game. The practice ran as smoothly as possible, with Coach Julio guiding them on the specific details and tactics for playing against our next opponents and practicing the most we could in such restricted time. Our game was only at 5:30 PM and we managed to watch many other schools play their matches. Our opponent that day was PASPOA (Pan American School of Porto Alegre). With our bag getting heavier and heavier full of Lion pride, we beat PASPOA 1st set: 25 – 14 & 2nd set: 25 – 16. With that being said, we were in the finals! We couldn’t believe it, but we did it. We celebrated that win by quickly coming back to our rooms to get ready for dinner and to watch the other game that decided who was our opponent for the finals. It was in between Our Lady of Mercy (Catholic American School in Rio de Janeiro) and EABH, to much ‘surprise’, OLM defeated EABH and we would play our finals at 9:15 AM with them the following day. As best we could, we went to sleep early that day and got ourselves ready.
Our last day at the tournament came to such a close call we couldn’t believe it. Our final game against Our Lady of Mercy (OLM) did not go as planned and we lost 2-0. During the first set of the game, we were not struggling with our opponents, we were struggling with ourselves. I believe that myself included, we were truly not in the right state of mind to play that game. Our skills, communication, and game were truly not what we were in that tournament. Many of the points that our opponent scored did not reflect their performance in that game. And, to our dismay, many of our supporting schools’ athletes had their finals to play or watch, so we did not come even close to the number of supporters OLM had. Nevertheless, we shook off our poor performance in the first set and entered the court with new eyes for our second set. We did our best with what we could and how we could. The result was not our desired score but all of us were more than proud of our accomplishment. We still had to remember that in a tournament with 8 competing schools, we earned our place as 2nd best volleyball team there.
I am beyond proud of the team and our accomplishments as St. Paul’s Lions!
Thank you all for memories that will be with me forever.