For the first tournament of the season, the Under-15 Element Panthers did exactly what they wanted to accomplish — learn and grow.
“They played really well, considering what we’ve only been able to do so far. We are really proud of them,” said co-coach Heather Miller.
The team hosted the six-team tournament and finished in sixth place. This is the first year for the U15 division. The team has two 15 year old and the rest are 14 years old.
“We are playing at this level because of the two 15 year olds. Otherwise, we would just be playing at the U14 level,” stated Miller. “We are a very young team and a new team. None of them played together and as a team, we’ve only had a couple practices before Sunday.”
The tournament saw some good volleyball from the teams involved as many of them were filled with majority of 15 year olds and have been playing together for a while.
“For most of us, this is the first games on the season, so we got a long way until provincials, which are in May,” she said.
The Panthers were hoping to build on some of the basic fundamentals they worked on in practice. For many of the players, it was learning to play at a higher level, as they have never played high school volleyball before.
“Our goal was to work on our serve-receive and learn our positions. They were able to do both of those things, for the most part,” said Miller. “This weekend, regardless of the scores, was a success.”
The Panthers played four games on Sunday at SIAST against Saskatoon where they lost in three sets. They then faced Prince Albert and kept it close 25-19 and 25-20. Next up was Northwest Fury (NWF) (near Edam) and they lost 25-14 and 25-13. In their final game, they played Regina Volleyball Club Gold and lost 25-12 and 25-14.
“We played four games so the guys are pretty tired. At the end, it really is who has the most left and this is the most practice they have had as a group since we started before Christmas,” said Miller. “This was awesome practice and it is all practice up until provincials anyways.”
Miller and co-coach Joe Gunnis are happy that the players are taking their time to play club volleyball and the desire to improve their skills. The coaches hope that with such a young team that this will help not only them when they get to high school, but also help build the high school programs.
“It allows for more skill development and able to feed some of the other teams as they move up. A lot of these kids are in Grade 8 and they have never played high school, so we can develop their skills and help them in a variety of positions so they can learn the game,” she explained. “In this league we don’t have a libero which is different from high school. There are certain skills they are still trying to learn and develop. It is all fundamentals.”
The gold medal went to NWF after they defeated Swift Current 25-14 and 27-25. Saskatoon won the bronze medal after beating Prince Albert.