Marauders reach podium at home tournament

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.

As the hosts for this year’s provincial 5A senior boys’ volleyball championship, the St. Mary Marauders are eager to have a strong campaign out on the tournament trail.

Following a second place finish to the Swift Current Colts in Meadow Lake to start off the season, the Grade 12 team placed second in their home tournament Saturday after falling to the Meadow Lake Carpenter Spartans.

Meanwhile, the Grade 11 Marauders squad also reached the podium for a second straight weekend as they defeated the Centennial Chargers of Saskatoon in the bronze medal game.

“I thought we did a better job with our offence this weekend compared to how we played in Meadow Lake,” Marauders coach Rene Quintal said. “We were able to set the ball into the middle and use our attackers a lot more to get them involved in the play.

“In the final, I thought the Spartans had an excellent defence and they were able to extend more of the rallies compared to us thanks to some great blocks.”

With five players having experience playing for the provincial team, Quintal believes that the Marauders should have a good idea of what to expect when they host their first provincial high school championship since 2004.

“There’s some excitement around the team already about being the hosts and knowing that we’re already locked in, but our main focus is on getting better ” Quintal said. “There’s always pressure going into the provincials, but we don’t think that we’re the automatic favourites at the moment.

“We’re going to be playing a lot of 5A tournaments this year, such as the one hosted by Aden Bowman in Saskatoon this weekend, and we’re going to a pair of events in Alberta next month where we will get to play the top schools from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.”

Although the Carlton Crusaders missed out on the final four at the St. Mary tournament, coach Curtis Bender is pleased with how the team is progressing, especially after they won the consolation side of the tournament in Meadow Lake to start the season.

“We had a number of guys out of our lineup this weekend so we had a few players in some different positions,” Bender said. “However, I thought we did a good job, especially with this year’s team being a younger one.

“Most of our lineup has played at the club level, so they have a good understanding of the game already. The biggest thing now is to have the physical maturity you need at the senior level, but that comes with getting older and playing against strong teams.”

With a busy schedule on the horizon, including their home tournament on Oct. 12 and 13, Bender believes the Crusaders should be in a good spot when the provincial qualifiers come around.

“It’s always nice to be at a provincials where you can sleep in your own bed, but our main focus is to get there first through the qualifiers,” Bender said.

“The biggest key for us to get there is to make sure that are younger guys are confident in their abilities. There’s some doubt that can creep into your head sometimes when you face an older squad, but I think the amount of tournaments that we’ll be in this year will help make that become less of an issue.”