Work is underway for the Bellerose Bulldogs to complete unfinished business in high school volleyball.
Last year’s Bulldogs had the pieces in place to win the first senior men’s championship since 2002 but were unable to put it all together in the division two final.
“It just sucked losing last year,” said Daniel Ward, a powerful Grade 12 spiker with the 6-0 Blues. “We want to get that banner.”
Six players are back from the 7-3 team that dropped a four-set decision to the Paul Kane Blues in the metro Edmonton playoff.
“Our goal definitely this year is to win the final,” said Ross Bishop, a Grade 12 middle. “We’re undefeated and obviously we want to keep that going. We’re going to try out best and keep winning.
“We’ve definitely improved since last year.”
Ward agreed. “We were good hitting last year and even better this year,” said the 2016/17 metro Edmonton all-star.
The Bulldogs have lost only three sets while sweeping four best-of-five matches.
“We’re working together. When we do that it brings the team together,” said Ward, 17.
Four matches are left before the playoffs and they include the M.E. Lazerte Voyageurs (6-0, 18 GW/4 GL) Oct. 16 and the St. Albert Skyhawks (4-1, 14 GW/7GL) Oct. 25.
“We haven’t played good teams though,” Ward said. “It’s been a good season, we just need to start off our games faster.”
The Bulldogs need lots of time to get wound up before serving up the victories.
“Our warm-ups aren’t good,” Ward said of the nagging problem.
Wednesday’s 20-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-11 win over the Archbishop MacDonald Marauders (0-5, 4 GW/15 GL) at Bellerose was a perfect example of the Bulldogs easing their way into match play.
“We started off really bad but then we started passing better and closing blocks and actually hitting balls,” said Bishop, 17.
A pedestrian opening set of erratic serving, sluggish ball movement and misfired hits by the Bulldogs allowed the Marauders to pull ahead 20-13. A five-point run by the Bulldogs, with the last three scores by Bishop on spikes, left the home team trailing 21-18 before the Marauders closed it out.
“After that we communicated and just worked as a team,” Ward said. “We started passing well and actually the serving was better and we started tipping the ball.”
After coach Sue Leighton laid down the law with the players prior to the second set, the Bulldogs turned the switch on to light up the Marauders for sizable leads of 9-2, 15-6 and 22-14. Consistent serving by Taylor Huls during an early nine-point run, plus point-producing hits and blocks by Ward and Bishop, a pair of six-foot-three bashers, allowed the Bulldogs to pull away. The set clincher was Bishop’s thunderous block.
The third set looked like a runaway for the Bulldogs at 8-3 as Bishop racked up four points off serves during a six-point spree that started with a mighty hit by Adam Wilkins. The Bulldogs kept cranking it up behind the strong arms of Bishop and Ward for advantages of 14-7 and 19-12. A key defensive play by Cody Reiling put the score at 22-17 and Jackson Codger dug deep to make it 24-20.
The Bulldogs poured it on in the fourth set with three lengthy runs as Ward ratcheted up the attack, Bishop provided consistent serves and the rest of the players on the floor contributed in a variety of ways to end the match.
“We had good swings and when our passing is there no one stops us,” Bishop said.
However, the team’s overall performance wasn’t up to snuff.
“That was a pretty bad game. We tend to play like down if we’re facing a worse team so we’ve definitely had better games than that,” said Bishop, pointing to Monday’s 26-24, 25-21, 25-11 sweep of the St. Francis Xavier Rams (2-2, 7 GW/8 GL) at Bellerose as one of the best matches of the season.
Wednesday the Bulldogs host the Holy Trinity Trojans (1-3, 6 GW/9 GL) at 6:30 p.m.