The 5A Boys and Girls volleyball provincials are set to take place in Prince Albert this coming weekend and both Carlton Crusader teams have qualified and are looking to make noise.
The Carlton boys squad has had this weekend circled on the calendars for months. The Crusaders will serve as the host team for the 5A Boys Volleyball Provincials.
Carlton head coach Curtis Bender says the excitement and anticipation for the tournament is palpable around the team.
“It’s not too often that you get to host an event like this where you are on your home court. We’ve hosted tons of regionals, but this is the next step. It’s the first time since I’ve been coaching that we’ve hosted provincials. It’s something new and the guys are very excited for this.”
Although the Crusaders were guaranteed a spot in provincials due to their status as the host team, it was still a successful weekend of regional play for Carlton going 3-1 last weekend at St. Mary. The only blemish for Carlton was a three-set loss against Warman in their opening match.
Bender says the Crusaders were able to regroup after the loss and play some of their best volleyball of the season the rest of the weekend.
“I thought we got better as the tournament went on. The first match we struggled a little bit. We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but once Saturday rolled around, I thought we played really well.”
The Crusader boys are ready for the tournament to come to their home court. They will kick off pool play against Regina LeBoldus at Carlton’s CPAC gymnasium at 12 p.m. on Friday.
Bender says the Crusaders have been practicing on their home court all year long and are hoping the familiarity pays dividends during provincials.
“We’re hoping it plays a big part with the familiarity. We’ve been practicing here, setting up the full court, and being able to get those reps in a familiar environment, I think will help. I’m hoping just knowing our home court, the little ins and outs and everything like that will give us a bit of an advantage. We’ll take every bit we can get.”
Max McDougall is one of Carlton’s graduating players. With big crowds expected on the weekend, he says the Crusaders are more then prepared for the atmosphere the provincial tournament will provide.
“We’ve played in front of big crowds like that since I was in grade 10 and a lot of this group has been playing together for three years and we’ve played countless city finals and a lot of stuff with big crowds, and I think we’re pretty acclimated to it.”
The Crusader girls punched their ticket to provincials after finishing 2-2 at the regional tournament in Lloydminster last weekend.
Carlton defeated Lloydminster in their opening match in straight sets and took a three-set victory over Warman. The Crusaders lost to the St. Mary Marauders and North Battleford Comprehensive in their other two matches.
Crusader head coach Tori Glynn says Carlton accomplished their goal of making provincials and showed major positives, even in the matches that did not go their way on the scoreboard.
“Our goal was to qualify for provincials. I had talked about trying to play our best volleyball at that regional tournament and I think that we did some positive things. We played within our defensive systems and really played and worked together as a team. It was really nice to see such a positive environment and atmosphere when we were in Lloyd.”
The 5A Girls Provincial volleyball championship will be hosted by St. Mary, with some games taking place at Sask. Polytechnic throughout the weekend.
Glynn says the Crusaders are excited to play in provincials in Prince Albert, even if they are not serving as the host team.
“That’s very special, even though we’re at St. Mary, we’re still at home, we’re excited to be in our city. It’s really cool that St. Mary and us both qualified, we’re both in provincials, we both get to play in Prince Albert here. I think that speaks to the level of volleyball that does come out of Prince Albert in general.”
Grade 12 libero Amy Sand will play in her final high school volleyball tournament this weekend. She says she is grateful to play one last tournament in Prince Albert to end her high school volleyball career.
“I’m glad it’s at home with all of my friends and family. I’m excited to see how we play, and I hope we play good since it’s the last tournament for so many of us.”
After emphasizing the defensive game heading into regionals, Glynn says the key for Carlton at provincials will be to work together as a unit and to maintain a positive attitude.
“The major thing is to trust the training and trust the preparation that we’ve done leading up to this. Finding a way to be in the solution and be a positive impact player on the team no matter what your role might be.”
The Crusader girls begin provincial play at 2:15 on Friday afternoon when they take on the defending provincial champion Saskatoon Holy Cross. The game will take place at Sask. Polytechnic.
Glynn says the Crusaders are hoping to start off the weekend on the right foot in that game.
“I think it’s going to set the tone for us this weekend. If we can come out and follow our game plan and play with all the passion and effort that we played with at Regionals, I think we should have a pretty positive experience.”
See Friday’s edition of the Daily Herald for a volleyball provincial preview on the St. Mary Marauders.