Panthers win tournament and build confidence

Matthew Gourlie
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Local 16U volleyball team goes unbeaten at home

The Moose Jaw Element Panthers 16s ran the table at their own tournament this weekend.

Katie Thiessen from the Moose Jaw Element Panthers 16U hits against the block of a player from the RVC Gold in the local tournament semifinal Sunday.

They will be in for a much stiffer test next weekend at the Sask. Volleyball Association 16-and-under women's provincial championships in Saskatoon.

The Element Panthers 16 defeated Regina's QCVC Royals 25-15, 25-15 in Sunday's final to capture the title at their home tournament at SIAST Palliser. They won all seven of their games en route to the title.

"They played well together as a team and I'm hoping it carries on next weekend," said Panthers coach Lewie Bell. "I was really happy with how the girls played. It's kind of funny, but they seem to get that the idea is to put the ball in the other team's court and not make errors."

The Panthers won their pool with a 3-0 record, but beat the Royals in three sets: 25-16, 23-25, 15-7. They struggled in the middle set and committed 19 errors. Bell felt that was a good teaching tool for the rest of the weekend.

"After that the girls corrected their errors and did a lot better (Sunday)," said Bell.

Their 3-0 record Saturday was even more impressive considering they didn't have either of their regular setters on hand.

"The girls adapted well," said Bell. "We played Saturday without a setter. Jenna (Campbell) was sick and our other setter (Julie Knudsen) was dancing Saturday. It just so happened on Thursday we practiced with our middles taking the second ball and setting — which they do, when our setter takes the first ball, they take the second ball. It was a lucky thing we did because 70 per cent of Saturday we had to practice with our middle setting.

"It worked out well. I think it made our hitters think about what kind of swing they were going to make. Instead of hitting away all of the time, they had to concentrate and make sure that the ball was going in and going to a spot."

In the medal round they beat the Lumsden Rage in three sets in the quarter-final and in the semifinal they dropped their first set to the RVC Gold 15 before rallying to advance to the final.

"We're going into provincials this weekend and this is the best we've played all year and the most consistent we've played all year," said Bell. "There was 12 teams at our tournament and I think seven of them are ranked ahead of us at provincials. I think this might give the girls some confidence going into provincials as well."

The RVC Gold team that they beat in the semifinals is a 15U team that is ranked second in the province at the lower age group.

The Panthers are ranked 20th heading into provincials this coming weekend.

"It was good that we got some of those wins. I'm not sure that being ranked 20th is a good indication of where we are at this point," said Bell. "Because we're ranked a little lower, we're going to have to beat some tougher teams to move on.

"We're going to have to play the same way we played this weekend."

The Element Panthers 15 dropped all three of their pool games and then lost to the BVC Force in the playoffs to drop down to the consolation pool.

Organizations: RVC Gold 15

Geographic location: Sask.

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