For the first time since 2014, the Carlton Crusader Sr. Boys volleyball team are Prince Albert city champions.
The Crusaders defeated the St. Mary Marauders in straight sets (25-23, 25-21, 25-22) at the St. Mary gym Wednesday night. Carlton head coach Curtis Bender said he was glad to see this group of players break the eight year drought.
“I’m really happy for these guys. They deserve it,” Bender said afterwards. “We’ve battled hard. There are some guys that I’ve had here now for four years, and they’ve never really got a chance to be on the winning side, so I’m really happy, especially for those Grade 12’s.”
The Marauders had their chances during the match, building solid leads in the first and third sets before the Crusaders rallied to win. Bender said he was impressed with the resilience and calm his squad showed, despite falling behind on two separate occasions.
Fans from both schools packed the St. Mary gym to watch the two teams play, something Bender also appreciated.
“We served really, really well. We just kept attacking, and then the fans were a big boost as well too,” he said. “I thought they gave us a little bit of life, so kudos to our fans. They were unreal tonight.”
After winning a hotly contested first set 25-23, Carlton built an early 9-4 in set two before St. Mary battled back. The Marauders made it 11-8 before the Carlton squad reasserted themselves, eventually winning 25-21.
St. Mary came out strong in the third set, building a 7-2 lead and forcing Carlton to take a timeout. However, the Crusaders came back to tie the set 16-16 before winning 25-22.
“I thought we passed a little bit better (after the timeout), and then I thought we started swinging again,” Bender said. “We didn’t panic. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way off the (start). A lot of times, people get down and can just fold, and we didn’t. We were patient and very resilient tonight.”
Both the Crusaders and Marauders will be back on the court this weekend when St. Mary hosts their mini-tournament. Eight Sr. Boys and four Sr. Girls teams will compete. The two clubs will then take part in regionals at Carlton, slated to start Nov. 12.
Five teams will take part in regionals, with the top two finishers moving on to provincials in Swift Current.