Volleyball Skyhawks sweep winless Blues
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 12, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Skyhawks dug deep to sweep the winless Paul Kane Blues in a tougher match than expected in division one female volleyball.
After never trailing in the opening set, the Skyhawks were forced to rally in the second and third sets to finish Wednesday’s best-of-five contest on a winning note at the SkyDome.
“It’s always a good battle against St. Albert teams. It’s a rivalry so it was a good match,” said Emily Groenenboom, co-captain of the 5-1 Skyhawks.
The scores were 25-18, 25-22, 25-21.
“We fought pretty hard. We had a lot of hustle, which is pretty good,” said Groenenboom, a Grade 12 power. “We stayed really positive. Usually our team has problems going up and down and we just stayed up this whole game and that helped us a lot.”
On the other side of the net, Paul Kane played its best volleyball of the season in a losing cause.
“We didn't take any sets from them but we did have good energy,” said Emma Cunningham, captain of the 0-6 Blues. “We played well for most of it, besides a few lapses in the middle and at the beginning.”
The Skyhawks started off the match with eight straight points on the strength of co-captain Nicole Clayton’s pin-point serving and later extended the lead to 13-2 with Kayla Ivicak’s contributions from the serving line.
Jae-Lyn Visscher’s blocking and Cunningham’s net presence helped generate points for Paul Kane.
In set two the Blues chipped away at deficits of 8-3 and 14-9 with consistent hitting to jump ahead 17-15.
Back-and-forth scoring continued as the Skyhawks scrambled to play catch up.
Groenenboom pounded the ball to knot it at 21 and then at 22 before Ivicak’s massive block at middle to make it 23-21 forced Paul Kane to call a time out.
When play resumed, Jessica Baird planted an ace and her next serve was unreturnable to end the set.
In the next set the Skyhawks fell behind early until a seven-point run put them on top 15-12. Clayton’s serving contributed several points in the comeback charge.
The teams then exchanged points with hot and cold serving from both sides.
After the Blues scored twice off hits to even the count at 21, Groenenboom’s spike produced the go-ahead point. The 23rd point was a block, the next point was Ivicak’s tap down and Baird’s serve sealed the deal.
The Skyhawks’ fourth straight win was closer than the 3-0 outcome suggests.
“We made a lot more unforced errors than we usually do and that could've impacted that,” Groenenboom said.
The only loss for the Skyhawks (15 GW/6 GL) was 3-0 to the Holy Trinity Trojans (5-1) in division one, formerly the premier conference before the Edmonton public league merged with the Metro Edmonton High School Athletic Association.
“Our record is really good. We’re really happy with it,” Groenenboom said. “There is a lot of good teams this year.”
Cunningham, 17, said Paul Kane’s record is misleading after the Blues (two GW/18 GL) suffered their fourth 3-0 loss in league play.
“We do play well during games, it just doesn't go our way in the end usually,” said the Grade 12 power. “Some games we have good defence and others we have good offence. We just have to put those two together and once we do we’re set.”
Last year the Blues finished seventh out of nine premier teams at 2-6 (8 GW/22 GL) with two returnees from the 2011 premier championship team and fourth-place finishers at the provincial 4A championship.
“This year we all want it a lot more. Last year it was kind of like we don't care at all and this year we have a much better team,” said Cunningham, the only player on the senior team remaining from Paul Kane’s memorable 2011 provincial run. “As a group we’re a lot more tighter knit. We’re a good group of girls and we all like each other really well so we play as a good unit. We just have to work on our first pass.”
One of the most skilled Skyhawks’ volleyball teams in years disappeared in the 2012 playoffs after going 8-0 (24 GW/5 GL) in premier. They bowed out in the semifinals to the fourth-place Ardrossan Bisons in five sets in St. Albert and as the 3A zone co-hosts finished 1-3 and failed to make the semifinals as two teams advanced to provincials. Seeded first in the eight-team zone draw, the Skyhawks were swept by the third-seeded Bisons in the best-of-three pool A match and in the playoff round were eliminated in two sets by the second-seeded Trojans.
“We have a lot of new players and we have six old players too in Grade 12. We’ve also bonded a bit better this year than we did last year and everyone gets along really good,” Groenenboom said. “Since we have a really young team we have to have a good attitude and keep supporting everyone and that usually works well for us.”
On tap next week for the Skyhawks is the 19th annual Lions Western Canadian Challenge, featuring 24 male and 24 female teams. Venues for the three-day, 198-match tournament are the Morinville, Bellerose and St. Albert Catholic high schools and G.H. Primeau and Notre Dame schools in Morinville.
Last year the Skyhawks lost out in the quarter-finals
“We’re hoping to come top five in it. We’re practicing really hard hoping to do well in it. We’re excited. It should be a good tournament with lots of good teams,” said Groenenboom, 17.
This is the third year in a row the lady Blues are not competing in the tournament after winning it in 2009 and 2010.
Visit www.mchs.gsacrd.ab.ca for schedules.