A pre-Spring Break trip to Edmonton saw our 14U girls at Volleyball Alberta’s Premier #2. This was the first time all teams from across Alberta would face each other bringing together some old friends and rekindling some friendly rivalries.

Day 1 was the playoff round with our girls facing a strong brace of opponents in DCVC (Dawson Creek), Canuck Black and Revolution Green (Peace River). All teams had come through their respective VA#1 in the top 8 so there would be no easy games.

The first match of the day was against DCVC and our girls come out strong from the opening with good serving and a solid first pass allowing them to create good attacking opportunities. Polina established a strong presence in the middle, a role she would build on through the day, helping the girls take the first set 25-10. Briana continued to lead in the serving department, going on several long point runs. The second set saw more of the same, DCVC tried to work their way back into the the match with some good attacking options bringing the game back level mid way through the set but our defense was lined up well and the team kept themselves focused on the basics and the second set went our way 25-19.

Canuck Black were the next opponents and we took the game to them from the first serve, pushing the ball deep and hard and never really giving the Canucks the chance to establish any kind of momentum of their own quickly taking the first set 25-5. The second set was a closer affair but again the 403s kept attacking from all areas of the court led by Halla serving consistently and keeping the passers on the back foot through both sets. Kirsty threw together a string of hits late in the set from back-court, power, middle and right side to help the team close out the set 25-16.

NAVC Griffins Black were the opponents for the final pool match. Polina established a wall at the net in the middle defensively and was our ‘go to’ attack during the first set giving the team a position to rally around and build a commanding lead that they would not relinquish taking the first 25-13. The second saw the Griffins make a strong comeback and some doubt crept into the girls game becoming increasingly cautious as the set progressed manifesting in a string of uncharacteristic serving errors allowing the opponents to take the set 25-16 setting up a deciding set. This set was a ‘nerve jangler’ with the girls getting behind early on and having to fight their way back into contention; recovering the serve at 12-14 down Ashley took to the back line and calmly led the team to an exciting finish with a string of serves taking the set 16-14 and 1st place in the pool and a crossover game with Revolution Green from Peace River.

The crossover saw us re-establish our confidence in the first set with a great all-around performance from the first group on court. Some great attack and defence led us to a comfortable 25-9 win. The second set was not the ‘prettiest’ volleyball the girls have played, the cautious game came back and no-one seemed to want to ‘own’ the ball giving Revolution the opportunity to keep close right up to 22 all when Lara stepped up to the service line and pounded a string a great serves together finally allowing us to pull ahead and take the set 25-22 and a date with EKVC Avalanche in the quarter-finals.

Saturday evening saw the girls relax at the hotel with some great Greek food, sharing of gifts bought for each other at the mall during some down-time in the day and an impromptu dance-out to entertain the parents; a fun ending to a busy day.

Day two began with a cautious outing for the girls against EKVC; our attack lacked the aggression we are used to and we gave the Avalanche many ‘free balls’ that they were able to build effective attacks from through their #8 middle blocker who was hitting from everywhere on the court forcing us to dig deep into our scrambling and defensive game to hold on and through sheer determination pull ahead at the end to take the first set 25-22. The second set saw a great game of volleyball by both teams with never more than a couple of points separating them throughout. Megan was getting settled into a new position through the middle and she got her hands on some good blocks. In the end a set of solid serves from Alex down the stretch and some smart hitting by Kirsty was the difference between the teams with us taking the set 26-24 in another ‘parent stresser’ of a match. Day 2 also saw the welcome return to the line-up for Sadie, who battled a bad illness over the weekend.

The semifinals had us paired with the FOG Hawks, a formidable opponent with an unorthodox defensive strategy coupled with a strong line of middle hitters. The Hawks came at us hard and fast on the service forcing our receive all the way back and seeing Coach Mike use up both of his timeouts early to try and break the run. We started to settle down into our game mid-way through the set but the tightly packed defence on the Hawks court left no room for anything other than a very well hit attack which we were just not able to muster. In the end we lost 25-16. The second set was a much tighter affair with the 403s building a slim lead that they worked hard to keep but again some overly cautious offense played into the defensive strategy of the Hawks and they were able to grab the win by the tightest of margins 25-23. Taylor played a courageous game on defence, putting her body on the line several times.

The final match of the day was a great one with us playing for overall Bronze against SPVC from Grande Prairie. Right from the first whistle you could tell that both teams wanted this badly. The teams were evenly matched across the court with both having great attacks, service runs and defensive plays with the only difference in the two teams coming down to our girls, again, playing a little too cautiously on offence allowing SPVC to take the first set 25-20. The second saw the 403 girls give up an early lead but a string of seven serves from Kirsty gave us the lead back and the girls took this and built from it bringing back the more aggressive attack that they are comfortable with and displaying some fantastic scrambling to take the set 25-22. In the final set both teams brought their “A” game and left nothing on the court. There was some concerns for the captain and setter for SPVC after an on court head to head collision diving for a ball but fortunately there was no serious injury and she continued to play and help lead her team through the set. SPVC managed to maintain a 2 point lead through the entire set until Ashley once more took to the back line with the scores at 14-12, with no sign of nerves or concern she unleashed her “A” serve on the defence of the SPVC girls and coupled with a determined 403 line-up she took us all the way with 4 unanswered serves to clinch the win 16-14 and 3rd place overall – a fantastic ending to a great weekend.
Next up are the Provincials in Calgary in April.