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Skyhawks serve silver

Volleyball team loses 3A provincial women's final to Eagle Butte in three sets

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 06:00 am

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  • PROVINCIAL SILVER MEDALLISTS - The St. Albert Skyhawks completed a rare trip to the 3A provincial women's volleyball championship as silver medallists after losing Saturday's final to the Eagle Butte Talons of Dunmore 22-25, 25-14, 18-20 at the Saville Community Sports Centre. The Skyhawks finished 6-2 (13 GW/3 GL) overall and both losses were against the Talons.
    PROVINCIAL SILVER MEDALLISTS - The St. Albert Skyhawks completed a rare trip to the 3A provincial women's volleyball championship as silver medallists after losing Saturday's final to the Eagle Butte Talons of Dunmore 22-25, 25-14, 18-20 at the Saville Community Sports Centre. The Skyhawks finished 6-2 (13 GW/3 GL) overall and both losses were against the Talons.
    Supplied photo
  • SETTING THE STAGE - Nicole Clayton sets the ball for the St. Albert Skyhawks at the 3A provincial championships at the Saville Community Sports Centre. Saturday in the gold-medal final the Skyhawks lost 22-25, 25-14, 18-20 to the Eagle Butte Talons of Dunmore. The Skyhawks finished 6-2 (13 GW/3 GL) overall after losing the tournament opener in two sets to the Talons.
    SETTING THE STAGE - Nicole Clayton sets the ball for the St. Albert Skyhawks at the 3A provincial championships at the Saville Community Sports Centre. Saturday in the gold-medal final the Skyhawks lost 22-25, 25-14, 18-20 to the Eagle Butte Talons of Dunmore. The Skyhawks finished 6-2 (13 GW/3 GL) overall after losing the tournament opener in two sets to the Talons.
  • BALL BASHER - Taylor Thompson hammers a spike for the St. Albert Skyhawks at the 3A provincial volleyball championships last weekend at the Saville Community Sports Centre. The Skyhawks lost only two matches and both were against the Eagle Butte Talons of Dunmore: 2-0 in Thursday's tournament opener and 2-1 in Saturday's gold-medal match.
    BALL BASHER - Taylor Thompson hammers a spike for the St. Albert Skyhawks at the 3A provincial volleyball championships last weekend at the Saville Community Sports Centre. The Skyhawks lost only two matches and both were against the Eagle Butte Talons of Dunmore: 2-0 in Thursday's tournament opener and 2-1 in Saturday's gold-medal match.

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A silver medal was good as gold for the St. Albert Skyhawks at the 3A provincial women’s volleyball championship.

“It’s a high school dream to be able to make it to provincials and the fact that we got to be in that final match and won a silver medal just meant everything to us,” said co-captain and power hitter Emily Groenenboom. “You don’t realize how valuable a moment it is until you’re in it and with the energy and everything that is going on it’s just feelings you can’t describe.”

Sadness quickly turned to satisfaction after the Skyhawks lost Saturday’s heartbreaking 22-25, 25-14, 18-20 final to the Eagle Butte Talons of Dunmore at the Saville Community Sports Centre.

“We were upset but we knew we left everything out on the court and that was our goal going into the game. Everyone put in their best effort and that was all we could do. It was probably one of the best games we played all season and you can’t be disappointed with that,” Groenenboom said.

Silver was an impressive accomplishment, considering nobody at St. Albert Catholic High School can confirm if the Skyhawks were the first women’s team to win a medal or even compete at volleyball provincials.

“It’s great for St. Albert High’s volleyball program as a whole,” said head coach Damon Clayton. “They've done their school proud and they've done St. Albert proud. It’s a hard feat to get to provincials and go that far. There are a lot of great players and you've got to have a good team.”

The Skyhawks were so close to winning gold in the deciding set but couldn’t seal the deal.

“Luck just wasn’t in our hands in the end,” Groenenboom said. “We thought we had won the game at one point but we got a bad call to the other team.”

Everything was going according to plan until the Talons tied it at 14.

“I changed the rotation hoping to have Nicole (Clayton, the team’s setter and co-captain) and Emily in the front row if it got to a 14-13 and that’s exactly what happened. We got the play we wanted and we got the hit and we thought we won but we got called for being under the net and that’s the way it goes,” Clayton said. “The reffing was phenomenal, but it was a call that didn’t go our way. We weren’t upset about it, disappointed for sure, but we had a few opportunities after that at 16-15 and 17-16. We always had the lead but we couldn’t put it away and against a really good team like that, when they got the chance to put it away at 18-18 they did and scored two points.”

Clayton considered calling a timeout at 14-14.

“I asked both Nicole and Emily if they wanted the timeout and they said no. We got the next point and we didn’t call the timeout until we served it out at 15-15 and then it was just basically let it play out. Nobody had a timeout left and whoever was going to make the mistake was going to lose and it actually didn’t end up being a mistake. They had a great serve and that’s how they won the game,” said the Vincent J. Maloney School teacher. “I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I wouldn’t put anybody else in any different spot. We had injuries so every single player got a chance to play. Everybody played a part in us being there and we were going to win as a team and lose as team.”

The Skyhawks finished 6-2 (13 GW/3 GL) overall after losing the tournament opener to the Talons 24-26, 22-25.

“We wanted them. We were hoping they were going to win (their semifinal against the Ardrossan Bisons) because we felt we could’ve won that first one,” Clayton said. “It all played out perfectly. We just didn’t get the last point.”

Groenenboom, 17, described the Talons as a tall, well-rounded team.

“They had quite a few big girls and it was hard to play with that because we have a pretty small team. We had never played them before and we had to deal with those different types of players,” said the hard-hitting five-foot-10 Skyhawk.

The metro Edmonton division one team was confident entering the rematch.

“We were more prepared for the final game. We knew their girls’ strengths and we had to come out stronger. Our energy was a lot better in the final game than at the start of the tournament too because we realized what was on the line,” Groenenboom said. “The first set (in the final) we weren’t really into the game that much yet and in the second set we came out and we knew what we had to do if we wanted to keep on playing. We fought really hard and we went into the third set with good energy. We got down at the start at 5-9 so we really had to pick up our slack and push through from there and then it went back and forth the rest of the way.”

Hard fight

The Edmonton zone wild-card team buckled down after the first loss to the Talons in pool A to sweep its next six matches, including two playoff tilts.

“We knew that it wasn’t going to come easy and we would have to fight hard every game and that’s just what we did,” Groenenboom said. “It meant a lot for us that we came together like that as a team, especially when we were missing our middle, Kayla (Ivicak with a lower body injury in the second match of the tournament). Everyone did the best that they could and it resulted in us being in the final.”

The best of the bunch was the 25-17, 25-19 semifinal sweep of the Beaverlodge Royals, who knocked off the Skyhawks in three sets in the semifinals at the 19th annual Lions Western Canadian Challenge.

“It was kind of like a redemption game. We really knew we had to come out and fight hard if we wanted to win and that’s what we did. They came out strong but we came out stronger,” Groenenboom said.

The final marked the swan song for six Grade 12 Skyhawks and their coach.

“When we went into it at the beginning of the year we realized that we had a great shot at winning,” Clayton said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better finish. Not many coaches get a chance to coach their daughter and her best friends in a provincial championship game and you know what, I’m happy. It’s a good silver. They worked hard.

“Even though it’s disappointing to lose, the days will go by and the players will realize what a great accomplishment it was.”

The majority of the Skyhawks on the 10-player roster had club experience.

“We were very lucky this year that we had a group of players that all played club at a high level. They were all on the same team and knew each other so well so that was a definitely a big part of it,” Clayton said.

Camaraderie was another factor in the team’s success.

“I’ve never been on a team where they all backed each other up and supported each other. There was no getting on each other if there were bad plays,” Clayton said. “They said at the beginning of the year they were going to do this as a team and I was proud of them because that’s how they finished off. That part played a massive part in us being in the final.”


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