WESTLOCK – Beached for the entirety of 2020 due to COVID-19, the St. Mary School Sharks have opened their seasons strong with the senior boys and girls each notching tournament titles.
The girls have managed to play in a pair of tournaments and collected gold with a 28-26, 21-25, 15-10 victory over the R.F. Staples JV squad in the final of the Barrhead Composite High School JV Tournament held Sept. 18. At their second event of the year, the girls bowed out in semifinals of a JV tourney in Morinville Sept. 24-25.
The senior boys meanwhile are one-for-one, claiming gold at a seven-team Redwater tournament Sept. 24-25 — after vanquishing bitter zone rivals Living Waters in the semifinal, the Sharks downed Neerlandia 25-21, 25-19 to feast on gold.
Girls coach Ty Snell said they’ve got a full roster of 12 that includes six Grade 12s, with the remainder spread across Grades 9-11. He said they’re coming together nicely and will be in the mix for the zone title that’ll be contested in Westlock in November.
“Some of our more experienced girls have really led the team so far. For not playing a game for basically what’s been two seasons, they’ve done very well and should be proud of themselves so far,” said Snell.
The boys too are quickly finding their game, said coach Vance Nakonechny — both coaches said there’s been a fair amount of rust for all of the teams considering the 24-month layoff.
“As a coach you don’t know what you have after basically two years off. But we’ve had a lot of players come out this year and that’s been encouraging. We also have some solid veterans who are leading the way with some of the younger guys — some of those young guys haven’t played since Grade 8,” said Nakonechny. “But they’re all working really hard and I’m proud of them.”
For both coaches just being able to offer a program has helped the school return to normal.
“There’s just so much more energy in the school now that kids are able to play. They’re excited to be able to practice and excited to be able to go to tournaments. For a lot of these kids volleyball is big part of their daily lives,” said Snell. “And even for us as teachers, it’s a highlight in our days so it’s been a lot of fun to get back out there.”
Added Nakonechny: “The prevailing thought with all the coaches that I’ve talked to is that they’re happy to be back and to be able to give this opportunity for the kids. Bottom line is they’re having fun and learning how to play the game and how to be good teammates.”
Both clubs are off for the next few weekends, then the girls will swing back in action for the R.F. JV tourney Oct. 15-16. Both clubs then host the Joe Nestorovich tournament at the Rotary Spirit Centre Oct. 22-23 — this year’s event will be limited to 12 teams.
In November the girls will go Boyle for a tournament, while the boys will head to Thorhild, then both with return home to host the 1A zone championships Nov. 19-20 at the RSC.