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T-Bird girls score silver at home tourney

Senior girls fall in Sept. 24 final to St. Albert Catholic High School, while the senior boys only netted one victory over the weekend

WESTLOCK - It was a weekend of high and lows for R.F. Staples School’s (RFS) senior volleyball teams at their annual home tournament, as the girls dominated throughout and soared to a second-place finish, while the boys struggled to take flight and netted only a single match victory.

Nineteen teams, including the host T-Bird clubs, took part in the Sept. 23-24 RFS Senior Varsity Invitational Volleyball Tournament split between the school and the Rotary Spirit Centre (RSC), the site of the girls final played between the T-Birds and St. Albert Catholic High School Skyhawks Saturday night.

High off their improbable three-set win over the Edson Eagles in the semifinal (24-26, 28-26 and 15-8), a victory that saw them erase a 10-point deficit with their backs against the wall in the second set, the girls simply ran out of steam against the Skyhawks, falling 25-15, 25-19 — the clubs squared off in the round robin, with St. Albert winning the match two straight.

Coach Leanne Huppertz said it’s a great, early-season result for the club, which counts five seniors, and is something they’ll use to build on in the lead-up to the 3A zones held the third weekend of November in Morinville. At this weekend’s event, the T-Birds went 3-1 in the round robin (6-3 in sets) to finish second in their pool, then walked over Whitecourt in the quarterfinal to set up their epic tilt versus the Eagles, the top team from the other pool.

“That was our third game back-to-back-back, so they were starting to get a little tired, but that’s the game of volleyball, especially on Day 2 of a tournament. But we’re absolutely happy with the result,” said Huppertz. “The girls played really well throughout and showed a lot of determination just to get to the final.”

Huppertz, who’s in her fifth year coaching the club, said they’ve had an excellent start to the season, as they split the squad for the alumni tournament and the two sides met in the final.

“That hasn’t happened for a few years and they were evenly matched as the final went to three sets. They really gelled at that event and I think it’s going to be beneficial for us this year,” she added.

The club opened the year at a University of Alberta tournament and fared well against some tough, 4A city schools, although they did lose to St. Albert there in three sets.

“We’ve got a really good mix. It’s still early in the season, so we’re putting people in different places to see what works,” Huppertz said, adding they will be attending tournaments throughout the remainder of the fall, taking only the Remembrance Day weekend off.

Senior boys building for the future

On the other side of the draw, the boys were winless in the round robin versus Lloydminster, Camrose, St. Albert Catholic High School and Peace River, but rebounded with a 2-0 win over Edson in the playoffs.

Unfortunately the run was short lived as the T-Birds fell in straight sets in their next match versus Camrose, a club first-year head coach Aaron Graf called the best 2A team in Alberta.

Graf, a former alumni and member of the T-Birds who won silver at the 2010 provincials, said while they were hoping for a better result, the boys shouldn’t be hanging their heads as this season is geared around building for the future.

Much of the current roster includes members of the Westlock U15 Falcons club volleyball team that scored provincial and national gold this past spring, so the talent is there, it’s just going to take time. As it stands, the T-Birds count three Grade 12s on the roster along with seven Grade 10s.

“I let the boys know that everything is a step forward, it’s all about progress. For the most part you learn more by losing than winning in most scenarios, so it’s about us staying positive and building towards winning those tough matches,” said Graf.

The club will now continue to hone its game for the remainder of the fall with a full slate of tournaments on the tap and will be hosting the 3A zone championships Nov. 18-19.

“Everything is about building towards zones. We’ll be working on everything between then and now, mental and physical,” he added.

George Blais,

George Blais

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