For the second straight year, the Carlton Crusaders girls’ volleyball team reached the final four at the SHSAA 5A provincial championships.
After finishing fourth at the 2017 tournament in Melfort, the Crusaders matched that feat Saturday in Saskatoon following a straight sets defeat (25-16 and 25-20) to the Weyburn Eagles in the bronze medal match.
“It was a very successful weekend,” Crusaders head coach Brooke Dallyn said. “Friday went awesome for us as we won all three of our round-robin games and that put in a good spot for the playoffs.
“We still played well on Saturday, but we just weren’t quite at our best.”
The Crusaders finished in second place in Pool B with a 3-1 record, as they opened up the tournament with wins over the Balgonie Greenall Griffins, the tournament host Holy Cross Crusaders and the North Battleford Vikings.
Following a setback in their round-robin finale to the eventual tournament champion Campbell Tartans of Regina, the Crusaders got back on track in the quarter-final round as they defeated the Swift Current Ardens in straight sets (25-18 and 25-13).
“The girls were really hyped up going into that match,” Dallyn said. “They didn’t want their season to end, so they played as hard as they could.”
Carlton’s run at the title would end in the semifinal round with a straight sets loss to the Crusaders (25-17 and 25-12), which dropped the team into the bronze medal match with the Eagles.
“We just ran out of gas,” Dallyn said. “It was a long and exhausting day for the girls and they just lost a little bit of fire at the end.”
With two straight trips to the final four and only three girls graduating from this year’s lineup, Dallyn is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for the Crusaders.
“There will be some new faces joining us but the core will be returning as we have nine players coming back,” Dallyn said.
“Having these experiences at the provincials will be a huge help for us. I think the biggest thing we’re going to work on with them is just making sure that we push hard through the entire weekend and keep our endurance up for the last few games.”
Quarter-Final finish for Marauders
Going into the provincials, St. Mary Marauders head coach Shaun Hunko stressed that almost every team in this year’s field had a chance to come away with the title.
The defending 5A champions found out first hand just how competitive the field was Friday in Pool A play, as they lost to the Bishop James Mahoney Saints of Saskatoon, the Ardens and the Eagles in three-set affairs.
“We very easily could have been 3-0 after day one, but that’s the way it goes sometimes in volleyball,” Hunko said.
“Had any of those games gone the other way for us, we might have had a better seeding for the playoffs. To be honest with you though, I don’t think it mattered where you finished in the pools, as we saw Holy Cross go from fourth in Pool B to making it to the final.”
The Marauders punched their ticket into the playoffs with a win in their round-robin finale against the Winston Knoll Wolverines Saturday morning, but their quest for a second straight title ended with a straight set loss (25-18 and 15-17) to the Tartans in the quarter-final.
“I’m really proud of the girls as they never gave up after a tough day on Friday,” Hunko said.
“They gave Campbell a heck of a match in the quarter-final and it might have been one of the toughest tests they faced on their way to the title.”
After seeing six players graduate a year ago, it will be the start of a new era for Marauders come next fall as five players are set to age out of the high school volleyball ranks.
“We will be looking for some of our younger players to step up, which is all part of the process at this level,” Hunko said.
“It was a great year for the girls. They have come a long way and improved so much since the start of the season.”