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Eighteen teams compete in Laura Gauthier Memorial

Rankin Inlet volleyball tournament hosts players from every region of Nunavut
Gholam Dareshoripour makes a diving play to keep the ball alive for the Falcons. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

The Laura Gauthier Memorial volleyball tournament is about more than volleyball.

“This is our first win at the LGM,” said Jonah Oolayou of Team Iqaluit, whose team overcame Naujaat in the men’s finals to win gold Sunday, May 8. “I’m feeling pretty ecstatic. It’s been a long time coming.”

But he was thinking of someone else who had played at the tournament in the past.

“This is for you, Dad,” he said at the end of the interview, referencing Sandy Oolayou, who passed in 2015.

Meanwhile on the women’s side, Pangnirtung defeated Iqaluit 3 games to 0 in the finals to secure gold for the north Baffin hamlet.

“Our goal this weekend was to come here in memory of Laura (Gauthier),” said Jenna Qaqqasiq of Team Pangnirtung. “She was our cousin so we always try our best to attend this tournament.”

They had just six players at the event – no subs – but still managed to go undefeated. Qaqqasiq said volleyball is very popular in Pangnirtung right now, as four to six teams tend to come out each night to practise.

In all, 18 teams competed over the weekend, with 11 women’s squads and seven men’s. Teams came from all over the Kivalliq plus Gjoa Haven, Iqaluit and Pangnirtung, making it a truly territory-wide competition.

Organizer Toota Tatty called turnout amazing.

“It’s been a while since we have had this many teams attend our tournament,” she said after the closing ceremonies concluded.

It was also the first time the tournament was held in the Agnico Eagle Arena, where two courts were setup all weekend and the public could view from the stands, while grabbing a bite to eat at the canteen – much different than bouncing around school gyms in the past.

“I think the weekend was just full of good volleyball,” said Tatty. “There were some high-calibre teams.”

Laura Gauthier, to whom the event is dedicated, “changed the face of volleyball in Rankin” by introducing structure and systems play, said Tatty. Many committee members over the last 21 years have been working to make this a successful annual event.

“They helped keep this tournament alive,” said Tatty.

She thanked teams for their efforts to attend the tournament and make it a success, while suggesting they start fundraising to do it all again next year.

Alexia Galloway-Alainga smiles while playing with Team B. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo
Alookie Korgak, middle, jumps into the air for a celebration with her Iqaluit teammates during finals play against Pangnirtung. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo
Kailee Karlik and Eema Jones pause for a photo as they compete for team Familia. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo
Iqaluit and Naujaat players face off in the men’s finals. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo
Braelynn Aliyak bumps the ball for the Rankin Royals. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo