AVA III proved to be a turning point of sorts for our 16U girls team and as the smoke had cleared, they found themselves in a tie for a 5th place finish. This group of talented girls had some really close matches in both AVA I and II that didn’t end up going their way and the end result was seeing them finish in a tie for 13th and ending up 12th, respectively. It was pretty exciting to see them take advantage of some opportunities they were presented with in AVA III and end up with such a great finish in a very competitive field.

Starting off 4th in Pool C, the girls won their first match against LVC Marvel in 2 sets. Then it was on to a team that beat them in 2 straight sets in the last AVA, KAOS. While our girls did lose this match, they did make a battle of it and it took KAOS all 3 sets to take away the win, so it was great to see some positive progress. The last pool play match was against their long time friendly rival, the St. Albert Saints, a team they’d faced twice in the previous AVA in Edmonton, where the Saints won both matches. This time however, the 403 Selects walked away with a W after 2 straight sets, albeit, at 28-26 and 25-20, it was another close, hard fought match against the Saints.
At the end of pool play, these young ladies had ended up claiming 2nd spot in Pool C and with a 2 game break ahead of them, headed outside to enjoy the spectacularly warm day and recharge themselves. They knew they’d need this, as whichever of the top 8 teams in the province they’d be facing next, it was going to be a very challenging match.

Returning to Rally Pointe, they found they were up against a very tough competitor, Queens Extreme from Red Deer. Trailing 17-15 in the first set, 403 looked pretty comfortable, but by the time the first set was over, a momentum swing found us down 25-17. At one point in the second set we were ahead 20-14 after earning a side out. The girls continued to press through the purple zone to finish that set 25-14. In the third and final set, we trailed 8-6 at the switch and despite good efforts, were down 14-11 with Queens serving. For many teams, there’s just no coming back from that kind of deficit. Our girls though, well they just don’t quit. That never-say-die attitude resulted in a 16-14 victory and for the first time, saw this team headed into day 2 in the top 8 in an AVA.

The play-off grid had 403 Selects playing one of the toughest teams they’d face this year. They’d be playing the versatile Canuck Stuff. It didn’t take long for Canuck to show why they’re the number one team in the province and while our girls never gave up, two sets later we were moving on to what would be our final match of the tournament.

Let’s see, who would we be playing in our showdown for 5th or 7th? Of course, the St. Albert Saints, again. Not sure what it is, but it’s as if this team is our mirror image. It’s always an exciting, close match. It may be that in the 7 or 8 times we’ve played this team in the last two years, only 2 or 3 matches have ended in 2 sets and it’s always a coin toss as to which team will walk away with the win. It’s an understatement to say that this match was no different. With each team winning a set by the same score, 25-17., the stage was set perfectly for what makes sporting competitions great. It’s not surprising that this match was a highly contested, intense match. When the final whistle blew, 403 ended up with a few more points on the board and the win. What a great weekend for the girls and the coaching staff!

It’s been a tough year on the team for injuries and down time and we’ve faced a lot of additional challenges because of them. Most recently, in AVA II, we started the tournament with only 7 of our 16U athletes healthy as well as a 14U athlete (who was spectacular) who came to help give us a little more depth. Yet, the girls just don’t give up. They’ve learned to play through lots of adversity and it’s really gratifying to see the support they show for each other. While there’s lots of examples to draw from, one recent performance really sticks out. One of our athletes in AVA III who was already battling through a shoulder injury took a ball badly off of a finger on her hitting hand while blocking. Close to broken and in a lot of pain, she watched as the swelling around the joint continued to grow. She suffered through one of the most painful tape jobs of the season, sat for awhile and then told Coach Doucette she was ready to go in again. In our final 15 point set of the tournament, this athlete went on to claim 2 kills, 2 aces and made one of the most spectacular momentum-changing digs of our season. Her name is not used because frankly, this could have been any one of our 10 athletes.

Our girls understand that it’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. Yes, definitely some paraphrasing from Rocky, but it does aptly describe one of the things the girls have learned this year.

The coaching staff is all very proud of the athletes for their efforts. There’s been a lot learned this year and we all look forward to the Provincials.