SVA 18U women's volleyball provincials
The Moose Jaw Element Panthers clawed their way two spots higher than their seeding, but were one spot short of their pre-torunament goal.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Stacey Light, right, from the Moose Jaw Element Panthers 18U hits at the net in a game at their tournament earlier this year.
All in all it was a very good performance for the Panthers at Sask. Volleyball Association 18-and-under provincials. The Panthers were seeded eighth going into the tournament and finished sixth overall.
"It was a really good tournament for us," said Element Panthers coach Lewie Bell. "It was a really good finish and the girls played really, really well this weekend."
The tournament featured elite four teams who began in a power pool and all advanced to the quarter-finals. Those four teams finished in the top four spots as Saskatoon Total Chaos beat the Saskatoon Junior Huskies in the final.
"When I look at it, it's really hard for anyone to break into that top four," said Bell. "There's four teams there that go out and recruit players from all over the province to play for their teams. They practice four and five times a week. We practice once a week until basketball is over and then we try to go twice a week. Our girls play other sports."
Bell was obviously hoping to spring an upset in the quarter-final against one of the big teams, but he acknowledged that finishing fifth would have been similar to finishing first any other year.
"Getting sixth place is kind of like finishing second for us. I wasn't expecting to break into the top four. Yeah, it would have been really nice to upset one of those team, but it would have been an upset," said Bell.
The Panthers lost their quarter-final 25-14, 25-22 to the Regina Volleyball Club Gold.
"That was an interesting match. They're a strong team, a big team and they beat us pretty easily in the first match," said Bell. "They have three girls who are six-five and I think the girls were a little intimidated by them."
Bell stuck with the same lineup in the second set and the Panthers held their own and got an unlucky break on the call on the decisive point. While it may not have mattered, Bell would have liked to have seen what his team might have done if they had gotten the call and gotten back to 24-23.
"I'm not saying we would have won that game, but it was really nice to push them to where they were getting a little worried about the game. Anything can happen if you can push it to that third game," said Bell. "I was really happy with how they played in the second set against RVC. They realized that they were just another group of girls on the other side of the net."
Playing a team with that kind of size — and the Element Panthers are hardly a small team themselves — will be good experience for them as they prepare to go to nationals in Edmonton in May. Their performance on the weekend will also help their national seeding.
After the loss to Regina, they beat the fifth-ranked Wolseley Slashers 25-23, 25-22 in the consolation side before losing the fifth-place game 25-18, 25-21 to the Prince Albert Toppers En Fuego. The Panthers had just lost to the Toppers at in the semifinal of their own tournament the weekend before.
"The game against Wolseley we had a great match. That's a team that has been up in fifth place all year long," said Bell. "We came out a little flat against P.A. We just didn't have the same jump as we had against Wolseley."
After an unbeaten run through their opening pool, the Panthers nearly lost their crossover game. They beat Imperial Scorpions 25-14, 24-26, 15-13.
"We kept the first lineup in after the first game and that might have been a mistake. I don't know if they relaxed, but they ended up beating us in the second set and we just squeaked out the third set. I was getting worried," said Bell.
The other local participant, the Moose Jaw Falcons, won one of their preliminary games to finish third in their opening pool, but wound up finishing seventh in Tier III which was good for 23rd overall in the tournament.
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There weren't enough players for a local boys 18-and-under team. However, four members of the Central Cyclones provincial volleyball championship — Dax Whitehead, Brandt Thul, Aidan Saladana and Dalton Wolfe — were part of the Estevan South East Giants club.
The Giants finished second at the SVA 18U men's provincials this past weekend. They lost the provincial final 24‐26, 25‐19, 15‐13 to the Prince Albert Volleyball Club Smashing Bananas Sunday.
The Giants were unbeaten through the tournament and won every game in straight sets. That included a win over the Smashing Bananas in a Page playoff match. They beat the Saskatoon Junior Huskies 29‐27, 25‐20 in the semifinal.