Panthers headed to provincials

Katie Brickman
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U15 and U16 women teams looking for high finishes

The Element Panthers U15 and U16 teams have the same goal.

Members of the U15 Element Panthers club volleyball team practice at SIAST on Thursday before heading up to Saskatoon this weekend for provincials. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman

As both teams head up to Saskatoon for the Sask Volleyball Association women’s club volleyball provincials, the objective is to play competitive.

“We’ve done very well. We have come a long way from the start of the season and the girls have worked really hard,” said Joe Gunnis, co-coach of the U15 Panthers. “We are very proud of what they have accomplished this year.”

The U15 team, also coached by Shaune Gray, has held their own in tournaments across the province and were recently up in Saskatoon for the second Sask Cup of the season and did well there too.

“We haven’t won a tournament this year, but we have been placing in the top 10 and top 15 in most of the tournaments,” said Gunnis.

It has been more of an up and down season for the U16 club, but are hoping for a solid weekend.

“In some tournaments, we play really well and in other tournaments, we make a lot of errors and we don’t finish really well,” said Lewie Bell, coach of the U16 Panthers. “Last weekend, we had a really good tournament. We made very few errors in the games and went undefeated at our own tournament.

“I am hoping they have peaked and understand how the game works — the team that makes the least errors is the team that wins.”

Bell believes is it partly due to the age of the players, but also because the team does not practice consistently.

“We only practice once or twice a week. These kids all play something else, so that is the way it is here in Moose Jaw,” said Bell. “With our club, we tell the kids that high school stuff comes first, not club.”

The U15 Panthers are in Pool F to begin this weekend, based on rankings. In that pool are the Battleford BVC Fusion, Swift Current Jr. Sundogs, Esterhazy Storm and La Loche Lakers.

“We have seen La Loche and Swift Current. We’ve done all right against both of those teams this year,” said Gunnis.

Since the U16 Panthers team didn’t go to the second Sask Cup tournament, they were ranked a little lower and will begin provincials in Pool E with the Yorkton Blitz, Edam Prairie Storm, Saskatoon Attack and the Kelvington Pipestone Crocs.

“We have seen Saskatoon and Kelvington, but we haven’t played Yorkton or Edam,” said Bell.

The goal the U16 Panthers is to be in the top eight teams at the tournament.

If we can get into the top eight, that would be awesome and take it from there,” said Bell. “If we make tier 1, it will give us a good ranking for Western Canadians in Calgary in a couple weeks. That is what we are hoping for.”

The U15 Panthers also have a similar goal this weekend.

“We are going in looking to win the tournament,” said Gunnis. “We would always go in looking that way. I would say, a tier 1 finish would be optimal or a high tier 2 finish.”

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