BARRHEAD – After a season of second-place finishes, the Neerlandia Public Christian School (NPCS) girls volleyball team redeemed themselves by winning the Pembina Hills Divisional Championship held Nov. 15 at the Westlock Rotary Spirit Centre.
Brett Seatter, who coaches the team alongside Char Nanninga and Carline Schuring, said their victory at divisionals was sweet after losing the final at the 2J Zone Championship Nov. 3 against École St. Joseph from Whitecourt.
“We’re just so proud of the girls for sticking with it and overcoming the challenges they had struggled with earlier in the year,” he said.
The Eagles were joined at the one-day regional tournament by other volleyball teams from throughout the Pembina Hills School Division, as well as Covenant Canadian Reformed School (CCRS) from Neerlandia, R.F. Staples School from Westlock and Edwin Parr Composite School from Athabasca.
The club’s first opponent in the round robin was CCRS. Although NPCS started out a bit slow — Seatter noted that they’re not really a “morning team” — they ultimately defeated their fellow volleyball team from Neerlandia in two sets.
Next, they faced off with Barrhead Composite High School, which proved to be a tougher opponent but ultimately fell in two straight.
Finally, the Eagles played Edwin Parr to close out the round robin, which ultimately went to three sets as the Athabasca team gave it all they had.
“That was a really close one,” Seatter said.
Having won all three round robin games, NPCS earned a bye into the semifinals where they played Swan Hills School.
Seatter said they had last played Swan Hills months ago and were not prepared for the battle that they were in for, as Swan Hills refused to let the ball hit the floor in the first set, resulting in some incredibly long rallies.
He said the coaches kept telling the NPCS players to stay mentally tough and stick it out. Luckily, they managed to stay in the game and win the first set.
In the second set, Swan Hills achieved a 9-0 lead thanks to a hard server right off the hop, Seatter said.
“She was just hammering it and we were just struggling,” he added.
Eventually, though, Neerlandia managed to squeak out a victory and move on to the finals, which pitted them against the 3J Zone champions, R.F. Staples School.
As indicated earlier, the club had reached the finals of many tournaments throughout the season but ultimately ran out of steam at the end. Seatter said the coaches were worried that history would repeat itself again.
Initially, that seemed like it might be the case, as Neerlandia lost the first set by a score of 27-26, “which is obviously as close as you can get,” Seatter said.
But a switching up of the line-up allowed them to win the second 25-23, putting them into the dreaded third set that has been Neerlandia’s weak spot throughout the year.
“We just kept telling the girls, don’t worry about the score, don’t think about winning. Just think about making a good play, shake off any mistakes and get the next one.”
The third set was indeed a tight match with plenty of back and forth, but Neerlandia managed to nab the victory 15-13, making them regional champions.
“I thought both teams played really well,” Seatter said. "It’s kind of unfortunate that one team has to lose, but it was a very well-played final.”
Seatter said it was quite an honour to work with this group of girls, who were not only talented but a lot of fun to be around.
“They’re a true team,” he said, adding that a lot of the girls will now be playing on the basketball team, which he also coaches.