Blues finish eighth best

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Paul Kane goes 2-5 at 4A volleyball provincials

The Paul Kane Blues finished lower than expected at the 4A provincial volleyball tournament.

Ranked fifth in the 16-team seeding draw, the metro Edmonton premier women’s champions placed eighth overall last weekend in Red Deer.

Last year the Blues were seventh best at provincials in Lethbridge.

“Eighth was OK,” said head coach Stan Andronyk. “It just didn’t play out like, I don’t want to say hope because you always hope for things, [but]for some reason it wasn’t there for us. There wasn’t that feeling, I can’t even explain it to you, but it just wasn’t all there.”

The Blues won two and lost five, including their last three matches.

“Provincials wasn’t our best tournament,” Andronyk said.

In five tournaments the Blues were victorious three times, including a sweet repeat at the Lions Western Canadian Challenge. They also finished second once.

“It’s hard to explain how things ended up at provincials,” Andronyk said. “It didn’t look like we were nervous. Maybe we weren’t nervous enough.”

Last year’s record at provincials was 4-3.

“It was a tough tournament this year. There were a lot of good teams there. We would have had to play really well to place higher,” Andronyk said. “We would play really well and then we would give up big runs against us and we weren’t able to get out of that rut.”

In the opening day of round robin pool play for the Blues to rank teams five through eight in the round of 16, they went 1-2 and were slotted seventh in the playoff bracket. They lost 25-17, 17-25, 11-15 to the William Aberhart Orange of Calgary and 21-25, 21-25 to the Strathcona Lords, the third-ranked Edmonton zone rep. Their lone win was 25-16, 15-25, 15-10 against the Notre Dame Cougars of Red Deer.

“We started flat on Thursday,” Andronyk said.

The Blues advanced into the quarter-finals by sweeping the defending provincial champion Harry Ainlay Titans, the fourth-ranked Edmonton zone team and the 10th seed in the round of 16. Scores were 25-23, 26-24, 25-19.

“We played really well. We were steady and we didn’t give up a lot of bad points,” Andronyk said. “We looked really sharp, very consistent and poised.”

Things went south for Paul Kane against the Western Canada Redmen of Calgary, ranked first in the province on the eve of provincials and the second seed in the round of 16. The Blues went down to defeat 16-25, 14-25, 19-25.

“We were down 9-1 or 10-1 to start the match. Our passing was off and we never seemed to get going after that. It was a tough match,” Andronyk said.

After missing out on the medal round the best the Blues could do was finish fifth, but a 25-17, 23-25, 18-20 loss to the Spruce Grove Panthers dropped Paul Kane further down the pecking order.

“They were actually fairly positive after that loss [to Western Canada]and we came out and had a great match with Spruce Grove on Saturday morning,” Andronyk said. “We had control of that match and then in the second set we gave up another big run of points. In the end it was a crapshoot who was going to win it when it went that long [in the tiebreaking set].”

The previous week the Edmonton public league champion Panthers needed five sets to derail the Blues in a hard-fought Edmonton zone final at Paul Kane.

Ranked third going into provincials, the Panthers were also seeded third in the round of 16.

The last match at provincials for Paul Kane was the 20-25, 25-21, 10-15 loss to William Aberhart in the playoff to determine seventh and eighth place.

The gold medal was awarded to the Centennial Coyotes of Calgary after their four set victory over Western Canada. In the bronze playoff Strathcona swept the Catholic Central Cougars of Lethbridge. Notre Dame also tamed the Panthers for fifth place.

“There were more good teams this year but the top teams weren’t as good. Last year there were two teams at the top, Aberhart and Harry Ainlay, that were almost unbeatable. Going into the tournament it was almost a given they would be there. This year number one and number two ended up playing in the final but they weren’t dominant going through the tournament,” Andronyk said.

Last year the premier semifinalists qualified for provincials as the third Edmonton zone rep. In the round of 16 they were positioned 10th.

In league play, playoffs and the zone playdowns, the 2009 Blues were 14-1 (42 GW/11 GL) and this year’s team was 11-4 (38 GW/18 GL).

“Last year’s team was a little more tight-knit and their strength was as a group. This year we had 12 players compared to 10 and we weren’t just that tight group so it was a different type of team,” said Andronyk, who started out with the lady Blues as their assistant coach in 2008 when the team reached the premier final. “Our attack was definitely better this year. When we got our offence going we were very physically powerful in the front row.

“This year’s team had the tools and if things went well for us in this tournament it could’ve gone differently but it didn’t.”

The highlight of the year for the Blues was winning the first premier women’s volleyball crown in school history with a dramatic 25-11, 25-20, 17-25, 29-31, 15-7 triumph of the Holy Trinity Trojans. Last year’s champions handed Paul Kane its first loss after 12 wins in premier by sweeping Blues in the 2009 semifinals.

“The girls should be proud of how they did all year. All the girls played well and gave it their best. They got better as the year went on too,” Andronyk said. “You can’t just judge the year by wins and loses at the end.”

The Blues lose six players to graduation off a roster that included seven returnees from the 2009 provincials.

“We’ll give it another go next year. I think we’ve got another year in us left.”

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.