The school year might have started later than usual, but the volleyball action at the local high schools is in full swing with a pair of tournaments scheduled for this weekend.
Carlton Comprehensive High School will be the site of an eight-team senior girl‚Äôs tournament while St. Mary High School will host a 16-team senior boy‚Äôs event. Action at both venues begins on Friday afternoon and will conclude on Saturday with gold-medal games slated for approximately 4 p.m. at Carlton and 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary.
Following is a quick synopsis for all four of the senior teams that will be competing in the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association 5A competitions this year.
St. Mary Maruaders Senior Girls
The Marauders return a fairly experienced team, with nine players from last year‚Äôs club that lost in the provincial quarter-finals, on the roster.
Coach Shaun Hunko says the team is young, but they are excited and with St. Mary hosting the provincial tournament this year, he says the club wants to continue to improve and get a spot in the event through the front door rather than relying on the guaranteed berth as the host team.
‚ÄúWe have a lot of young talent on our team and, in general, there are a lot of athletic Grade 9s so the future looks pretty good,‚ÄĚ says Hunko.
‚ÄúBeing the host team does take the pressure off, but we want to make it there on our own,‚ÄĚ added Hunko.
After competing in the Carlton tournament this weekend, and hosting their own event next weekend, the Marauders will be on the road almost every weekend leading up to provincials in November. St. Mary will attend events at the University of Saskatchewan, Spruce Grove, Mount Royal in Saskatoon and Hague before competing at regionals in North Battleford the first weekend of November. Provincials are scheduled for Nov. 16-17.
Carlton Crusaders Senior Girls
The Crusaders enter their own tournament this weekend with a bit of confidence after reaching the semifinals at an event in Yorkton last weekend, where they lost to Balgonie.
Coach Chantelle Lamotte says the team is still very young despite having eight players returning from last year‚Äôs club.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre very young, but we‚Äôre very athletic,‚ÄĚ says Lamotte. ‚ÄúWe have high expectations with this team.‚ÄĚ
The Crusaders will also have a busy schedule leading up to regionals and provincials as they will also travel to Spruce Grove on the Thanksgiving long weekend along with stops at St. Joseph‚Äôs and Mustang Volley in Saskatoon. Carlton will also be at the St. Mary tournament next weekend.
Teams competing at their event this weekend include Meadow Lake, Yorkton, Marion Graham and St. Joseph‚Äôs from Saskatoon, Waldheim and Rivier and St. Mary from Prince Albert. Lamotte says a number of the teams are in their division and it will be a good gauge to see where they are at.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a good opportunity to see them and play them,‚ÄĚ says Lamotte.
Carlton Crusaders Senior Boys
Having gained the experience of competing at provincials last year when they hosted the boy‚Äôs event, the Crusaders are ready to make a return trip despite once again being very young.
Coach Jeff Court says there are 10 Grade 10 players on this year‚Äôs squad with just one from Grade 11 and a pair from Grade 12. There is also one who is just in Grade 9, which makes the team fairly inexperienced.
‚ÄúThe core group has an extremely strong work ethic,‚ÄĚ says Court. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve improved as a team from last year. We are doing things we couldn‚Äôt even think of doing at the end of last year.‚ÄĚ
That work ethic has translated into positive early results as a pair of split teams finished second and third at a tournament in Kelvington last weekend. It will be the regular squad that competes at the St. Mary tournament this weekend along with a number of other events held in Swift Current, Mount Royal in Saskatoon, the University of Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw and Yorkton. Carlton will host its own tournament in mid-October with all of these events helping them prepare for regionals and provincials in early November.
St. Mary Marauders Senior Boys
The three-time defending provincial senior boy‚Äôs champions will have a lot of new faces this year, but they are expected to once again be a threat.
Coach Rene Quintal says that five players from last year‚Äôs club have graduated leaving seven returning players to work with several newcomers. A number of the returning players were key parts of the championship last year and that will help provide leadership as the team works towards another title.
‚ÄúWe have the work ethic to be where we want to be at the end of the year,‚ÄĚ says Quintal. ‚ÄúOur goal is to play the best we can and if at the end of the season we‚Äôre provincial champions then great - as long as we play our best.‚ÄĚ
Like all of the other local teams, a very busy tournament schedule for the remainder of September and all of October will help the club prepare for regionals and provincials in early November. The Marauders will attend as many as six other tournaments after their own event this weekend, including the Carlton tournament in mid-October.
Among the teams entered in the St. Mary tournament this weekend are Nipawin, Kinistino, Kelvington, Meadow Lake, Waldheim, Muenster, Melfort, North Battleford and several from Saskatoon including Centennial, Marion Graham, St. Joseph and Holy Cross. Carlton will also be there along with a second St. Mary team to complete the field.
This weekend will provide a good test and allow the coaching staff to see how they stack up against the rest of the province.