U18 Panthers fall at nationals

Katie Brickman
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Disappointed was the only word that came to mind for Lewie Bell.

Stacey Light, right, from the Moose Jaw Element Panthers 18U hits at the net in a game at their tournament earlier this year.

“We were all disappointed … I was disappointed as the coach and I think the players are disappointed in their showing as well,” stated Bell.

The U18 Element Panthers did not fare well at the Western Canadian volleyball tournament in Calgary over the weekend — they lost all of their matches.

“The first game, we played really bad,” said Bell.  “We just couldn’t get anything going.”

The tournament was a national event, with teams from all over the country competing. The Panthers opened up against Eclipse, a team from Pickering, Ont. and lost in two sets.

They also lost to the U18W Junior Huskies from Saskatoon in straight sets and to the NAVC U18 Gold Pandas from Edmonton, Alta. in two sets.

“On the first day, I could see a little bit of nerves, but we played at the same building last year and we’ve played in the same atmosphere last year at Under-17,” stated Bell. “So, I don’t know how much it was that or if they weren’t prepared to play. We did a lot of things that we haven’t done since the beginning of the year, like letting balls drop between two people.”

On Saturday, they were able to take one set off the 403 Selects 18U team from Calgary, but lost. They then lost to Celtique U18F from Montreal and to Southwest Raiders from Richmound in straight sets.

“We were a little disappointed that we couldn’t get one or two wins this weekend,” said Bell. “I think we were close in a couple games where we maybe could have taken the match, but we dug ourselves in a hole a few times or we would let a team go on a run.”

Bell thought the Panthers played much stronger on Saturday and put together much better matches, but couldn’t gain any momentum.

Being in Division 1 pitted them against the other top talents in the country and it proved to be a tough task.

“It was nice to play some really good teams. Every team we played was really good and had a lot of strong hitters and played good defence,” said Bell. “It was a real challenge for us being in Division 1, but I thought it was good for the kids. It is just too bad it is their last year.”

On Sunday, they played in their playoff match against the Wolves U18 Girls team from Grand Prairie, Alta. and lost in straight sets. That put they out of the tournament.

“In our first playoff game, I don’t think we played as well as we did on Saturday. We played well, but not the strongest,” said Bell.

This is the final year for this team, as many of the players will be headed off to post-secondary in the fall. Two of the girls are going to play college volleyball — Larea Johnson is headed out to Briercrest and Janaya Welburn is going to a school in South Dakota.

“A lot of these kids could go somewhere, but they chose academics,” said Bell. “I would like to see them all go places, but education comes first.”

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

Organizations: Panthers, NAVC U18 Gold Pandas

Geographic location: Calgary, Pickering, Saskatoon Edmonton Montreal Southwest Raiders Grand Prairie Briercrest South Dakota

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