WESTLOCK – R.F. Staples School’s (RFS) junior varsity female T-Birds soared to spectacular heights in 2022, a year that included a pair of tournament titles, one second-place finish and culminated with an Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association North Central Zone banner.
The girls, who went into the eight-team zone tournament held Nov. 4-5 in Drayton Valley as the No. 1 seed, saved their best for last and defeated the host Frank Maddock High School Warriors 25-12, 21-25, 15-5 to claim the zone banner — the Warriors were the only team to win a set against the T-Birds all weekend. The JV T-Birds were a perfect 6-0 in the round robin, besting Morinville, Devon and Whitecourt, while dispatching Parkland 25-17, 25-21 in the semifinal.
Coach Steve McKenna said the girls were focused from the first game on Friday and played their best volleyball of the year when it mattered most.
“They played some terrific volleyball over the weekend. They went in with the No. 1 ranking and finished with the No. 1 ranking. They deserved it,” said McKenna just hours after the final.
“This team has grown so much throughout the year as individuals. They’re better people and better players.”
Looking back on their campaign, the girls won back-to-back tournament titles, including their own back on Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, while finishing second at St. Mary School’s Joe Nestorovich Memorial Tournament later that month and picked up a consolation title at the end of October in Redwater.
“There are girls on this team who just went above and beyond and I’ll start with our captain, Morgan Genert. She was phenomenal and a good leader and set the tone in practice,” said McKenna. “And we had some other kids follow suit and everybody stepped up at different times throughout the year and that’s all you can ask for as far as a team goes.”
The junior varsity program by definition is a stepping stone to the senior squad and McKenna hopes the girls will continue on to the next level. He also said the future of volleyball in Westlock is extremely bright considering not only their result, but the recent zone titles for the junior high teams from Pembina North Community School and RFS.
“The great thing about Westlock right now is the competition is so high. Volleyball is very strong here right now and that’s nice to see for sure,” said McKenna.