Seventh place was the order of finish for the Paul Kane Blues at the 4A provincial high school women’s volleyball championship.
“That was an excellent finish. It was tremendous actually,” said head coach Stan Andronyk. “We performed to the level that I had hoped we would.”
Going into the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association tournament in Lethbridge, the Blues were ranked sixth in the province and seeded 10th in the 16-team championship draw. In their round-robin superpool at provincials, the Blues went 2-1 in a group of teams seeded nine through 12 to earn the number 10 slot in the opening round of 16.
“Seventh is about where we belonged this year. That’s what we deserved,” Andronyk said.
The Blues completed a season to remember in their best-of-three match against the Grande Prairie Totems (North West) in the B side bracket to determine seventh and eighth place. Ranked ninth provincially, the Totems were seeded eighth in the championship draw and ninth in the opening round of 16 after their superpool results.
“Grande Prairie is a tough team and we achieved everything I wanted to achieve in that game. Everyone played. We had a great time. There were smiles all around throughout the match,” Andronyk said. “We won it 16-14 in the third set so it came right down to the wire. It was the best way we could think of to finish our year.”
In the A side bracket in the opening round of 16, the Blues scored a hard-fought five set decision against the Catholic Central Cougars (South).
“We came out extremely strong and won the first two sets fairly easily and then Catholic Central turned the tables on us and they won the next two sets quite easily. We had a good push in the fourth set but couldn’t quite put it away and lost 25-23,” Andronyk said. “In the deciding set we came out strong as we have all year and won it in good fashion at 15-10.”
Whitney Follette, a six-foot-two Grade 10 middle, recorded 15 blocks against the Cougars. Ranked third in the province, the Cougars were seeded fifth in the championship draw and seventh in the opening round of 16 after their superpool matches.
“Everybody played really well but I was really impressed with the way Whitney got going right away. She gave us the confidence we needed to carry through,” Andronyk said. “We matched her up with Catholic Central’s best player and she blocked incredibly. She came out with a focus and really got us going with her blocking early in that match and we just carried that right through.”
In the quarter-finals the Blues bowed out in four sets to William Aberhart of Calgary. Aberhart, ranked second in the province, was also the second seed in the championship draw and the opening round of 16. In the final Aberhart lost out to the Harry Ainlay Titans.
“Aberhart is extremely strong. They played a good match against us and we played almost as well as we could. We lost the first two sets and then we came back and won the third set 29-27. It was quite a battle, point for point and I was quite happy that we pulled that one off. We had to do as well as we could to get it,” Andronyk said. “As disappointing as it was to get knocked out of the running for the tournament, there was no shame in losing that match at all. The girls were very happy with their effort.”
Relegated to the B side, the Blues struggled through their best-of-three match against the LCI Clippers (South) of Lethbridge. The Clippers, ranked seventh in the province, were seeded fourth in the championship draw and third in the opening round of 16 after superpool action.
“They won the first set quite easily. In the second set we were up for most of it and then they just took over and I believe it ended up 25-22,” Andronyk said. “We didn’t have a lot of fight in that whole match and they just took it from us in the end.”
The first-year bench boss of the Blues was surprised by the result.
“[LCI] expected to make it farther than they did and I thought we would’ve had the upper hand in that one but we did not play well. It was a disappointing match just because it was getting near the end of the season and we just didn’t show up. I guess it might have been a letdown game but LCI would’ve had the same letdown if not more. We just did not perform in that one and I’m not sure why that happened.”
After the loss the Blues rebounded to close out the tournament on a high note.
“We made a decision as a team to come through in the last game for seventh and eighth and the girls certainly did that with flying colours.”
In their best-of-three superpool matches, the Blues swept the Bev Facey Falcons (metro Edmonton premier conference finalist) and the Western Canada Redmen of Calgary and got rocked by the Bellerose Bulldogs in two sets.
“Bellerose was pretty happy they beat us,” Andronyk said.
The Blues (14-1, 42 GW/11 GL overall in premier and the Edmonton 4A zone playdowns) were competing in their first provincials since the late 1980s. In six tournaments this year the Blues won four, including the Lions Western Canadian Challenge, lost the J. Percy Page final to Aberhart after defeating the Calgary side in the preliminary round and placed third at the Bev Facey competition.
In the zone playdowns, Harry Ainlay placed first, Bev Facey was second, Paul Kane third and Bellerose fourth as the four qualifiers for provincials.
“It was a fantastic year. I’m so happy the way the team came together. Sometimes I would forget that we didn’t have a lot of experience. We had three Grade 12s [middle Mary Hudson, libero Carmen Chornell and captain Christina Campbell], four Grade 11s and three Grade 10s and everybody achieved so well all year,” said Andronyk, an assistant coach for the 2008 premier finalists from Paul Kane. “We won our first tournament and got off to a great run right from the start and that really raised expectations for everyone. I’m sure they enjoyed the whole experience and they’re going to look back on this year and just have great memories of the whole thing.”