© Katie Brickman
Some members of the Central Cyclones senior girls volleyball team practice this week to prep for the season opener tonight (Caronport, 8 p.m.). Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman
Senior girls volleyball teams ready for competitive season
Last year, the Caronport Cougars did something no other team could do in the past eight years — they defeated the Peacock Toilers in the city final.
The senior girls volleyball season will open tonight with Central at Caronport and Vanier facing off against Peacock, both games at 8 p.m. with Rouleau getting the bye.
“I don’t know what the other teams are like and a lot of the schools lost some Grade 12s,” said Rick Bell of Vanier. “I think it is open for any team this year.”
Toilers add Tremblay into mix
The Peacock Toilers will be looking to avenge their city final loss, as they have seven returning players, including five Grade 12s. They are also getting Zoe Tremblay back after being in Medicine Hat for the past two years. She was with the school in Grade 9 and is now back for her senior year.
“Our strength is going to be our experience,” said co-coach Lorne Polupski. “Height is going to be one of our strengths…Macaela Crone is a Grade 9 and is 6’something and we have Caitlyn Kitts back who is as big. Those are our two towers.”
Libby Epoch is back for another year as a setter and Tremblay will be a powerful hitter. Cassy Busch will also be a leader for this team in the liberio position and Emma Maelde will provide support at middle.
“Cassy Busch is coming back and I think she is the best liberio in the city, by far,” said Polupski. “We just have a really well-rounded team…probably one of the strongest one since 2011.”
So far the Toilers are focused on working on the fundamentals in practice as well as rotations and defence. They do have their sights set on winning another city title, however.
“Like every other team, we are trying to do our best, which would be city and after that we look to regionals and then hopefully we can make provincials,” Polupski said. “We are happy with where we are right now, but by no means are counting our chickens and we have work to do and lots of it.”
Vanier has flexibility with lineup
With seven returning players to the Vanier Spirits lineup, the bitter taste of losing in the semifinal last year to Peacock is still there.
“We want to get to our city final that we didn’t get to last year,” said Bell. “We should have beat Peacock, but we chocked.”
Although the Spirits have seven returning from last year, only one, Stacey Light is a Grade 12. However, there is a good mix of grades, including six Grade 11s and three Grade 10s.
“It is going to be an interesting year,” said Bell.
The most encouraging sign for the Spirits this year is how motivated the team is to start the season. After a couple years were focus and communication were the Achilles heel for the team, this group is ready for a strong run this season.
“More so (focus) than last year and I think that comes from the players that are returning,” Bell stated. “They are used to what we want them to do.”
The main strength of this Spirits team will be the raw talent their athletes have throughout the different positions on the court.
“Everyone is a good athlete. Everyone is pretty much interchangeable as far as positions,” Bell said. “There are a number of players that can be power, middle or setters.”
Central moves on from rebuild
Last year was a year of experiencing things for the first time. Coaches Malinda Strueby and Joe Gunnis entered their first year at the senior level after coaching the junior girls team. They brought a young and inexperienced group up as well.
“We had a building year last year and I think we have great court knowledge,” said Gunnis. “Last year was our first year at the senior level, so were able to grow with the players. We have a lot better handle on it this year.”
The Cyclones have seven veterans returning and two Grade 10s added to the mix as well.
“We have a good mix of grades this year and a very comfortable team too,” added Gunnis. “We do have some height and some power and we have some very knowledgeable volleyball players.”
Now that the team is ready to move forward this year, they are hoping to improve every time they hit the court, however they do have their sights set higher.
“We do want to take every game one at a time and our goal is to come out and put every effort that we can into every game. We want to do our best to grow every game. As a cliché — everyone wants to win, but the wins aren’t always important,” said Gunnis. “As always, we would like to get to a city championship and a provincial berth.”
The Cyclones have added Kristin Windrum and Bart Mahlowitz as coaches for the season as well.
“They both are great coaches and bring a lot of experience,” said Gunnis.
New coach for Cougars
The Cougars will have a new coach in Brittany McNevin this season. She assisted former coach Shannon Koshman two years ago and is a former Briercrest Clipper. She couldn’t be reached for comment.
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