Smashing Bananas finish season with second place performance at provincials

The Prince Albert Smashing Bananas 16U team won silver over the weekend at volleyball provincials in Saskatoon. --Submitted photo.

The Prince Albert Volleyball Club’s 16U Smashing Bananas finished their season with some extra hardware over the weekend. The team came home from provincials in Saskatoon with silver medals. They fell to the Central Valley Volleyball Club (CVVC) out of Warman in the final.

“I’m quite proud of the boys and the effort they gave me,” coach Ethan Minier said. “They showed a lot of perseverance and I was very proud and pleased of them for that.”

It wasn’t an easy path to the final for the Smashing Bananas. They entered the second day of the tournament outside of the top four in the power pool, and had to win a crossover game to even make it to the playoffs. Once they made it to the knock out stage, the team dropped the first set in both the crossover game and semi final, but roared back to win in three sets on both occasions.

In the crossover match against the Battlefords Volleyball Club, the Smashing Bananas fell 23-25 in the first set. They rebounded with a 25-27 second set win, before winning the game with a 15-13 third set win.

In the semi final, the team was matched up with the Regina Volleyball Club, who knocked off the Regina 15U team in their crossover contest. The semi final match was also intense, as Regina took the first set 25-19. Prince Albert again responded with a second set win by a score of 25-23. They punched their ticket to the final with a 15-13 third set victory.

Their run fell short in the gold medal game, as they fell 23-25, 18-25 to the CVVC Sting. The Sting 16U team became the first team in the club’s history to capture provincial gold.

“Going into the weekend, I saw us as a team that could have won that final,” Minier said. “For us, the physical aspect of our game has always been quite well developed. It’s just more of the mental and emotional side of the game I think that we struggle with. We were able to get past those challenges this weekend.”

Provincials marked the final tournament of the season for the team, and Minier explained how the team has improved since the start of the year.

“Overall this season I saw a lot of physical improvement, whether it was technique or endurance and physicality of play,” he said. “But I think as a team, we showed a much higher level of unison, and we were able to focus a lot better.”

Being just a couple of years graduated from high school, Minier thinks being close to his players’ ages may have helped to build chemistry quicker. And with the style of the game staying relatively the same as when he played, the coach says it helps him to build a connection within the group.

“I think being just out of volleyball myself, I still remember what I struggled with, and I can think a little bit more like them,” he explained. “I think that aspect of my coaching might help them. Whether it’s able to compensate for the lack of experience, I don’t know, but I definitely felt that I connected really well with them. I thought they received the info that I was giving to them pretty well.

“My message for them now that the season is over is to be happy with the hard work that we put in. The job might not necessarily be done, and that last game is a great way for us to use it as fuel to continue to develop and look for that number one spot next year and in years ahead. They were a really great group of kids and I think they all have bright futures on and off the court.”

Meanwhile, the U17 En Fuego girls won provincial gold. They beat the Wadena Thunder in the final 25-23, 23-15, 17-15.