Going for gold on home court

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Daily Herald File Photo Nic Heleta of the St. Mary Marauders tips the ball to avoid a block attempt by Michael Pelechaty of the Carlton Crusaders during the Marauders home tournament earlier this year.

After weeks of planning around the school and preparations on the court by the senior boys volleyball team, the St. Mary Marauders are ready to compete for a provincial title.

The Marauders will be the host side for 2018 SHSAA 5A boys’ championship Friday and Saturday, as nine other schools will come to town for games at St. Mary and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

“Everyone at the school has chipped in to help out behind the scenes, which has been great for us as a coaching staff as it’s allowed us to just focus on getting our team ready for the tournament,” Marauders head coach Rene Quintal said.

“I don’t think we would have been able to be as ready as we are for this weekend without everyone’s help.”

Although they were already assured of a spot at the provincials as the host school, the Marauders turned in a strong showing at their final tune-up event in Warman last weekend as they finished in second place at the North Regional tournament.

“We’ve had a stronger commitment from our guys to play every point like it’s the last point of the game,” Quintal said.

“I think we saw that first hand at the regionals as we turned in a really strong performance.”

The Marauders, who reached the quarter-final last year, will open up Pool A play at noon on their home gym against the Balgonie Greenall Griffins.

They will also face the Yorkton Raiders at 3:15 p.m. and the Holy Cross Crusaders of Saskatoon at 5:30 p.m. before concluding their preliminary round matchups Saturday at 11:15 a.m. against the Riffel Royals from Regina.

All of the Marauders’ round-robin games will take place at St. Mary.

Pool B matchups will be held at Sask Poly and will feature the Meadow Lake Carpenter Spartans, the Lloydminster Barons, the LeBoldus Golden Guns of Regina, the Centennial Chargers of Saskatoon and the defending provincial champion Swift Current Colts.

“We’ve played every school except the two from Regina this year and this tournament really feels like it’s going to be wide open,” Quintal said.

“There’s a lot of good players throughout the province and that talent is really spread out among the schools, so you don’t have those truly dominant teams like you may have seen in the past.”

The playoffs will get underway at both gyms at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.

St. Mary will play host to the bronze medal game at 4:45 p.m., while the gold medal game will take place at 5:45 p.m.

Crusaders on outside looking in

The Carlton Crusaders just missed out on earning a spot in the provincials as they lost the third place game at the North Regional tournament in Warman last weekend to the Lloydminster Barons.

Although they missed out on their end goal, Crusaders head coach Curtis Bender is excited for what the future holds for the program, especially with only two players graduating from this year’s team.

“I told the guys after the tournament in Warman that this is going to be a great character builder for them and the loss to Lloydminster is something that is going to motivate them towards getting into the provincials next year,” Bender said.

“At the end of the year, we had four Grade 10 players starting for us and this was a team that battled hard every time out. I’m really excited to see how they will develop over the next couple of years.”