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T-Birds soar to pair of provincial berths

R.F. Staples School's senior girls win 3A zone banner, while senior boys claim silver

WESTLOCK - It was a banner weekend for the R.F. Staples School (RFS) volleyball program as the senior girls posted a perfect record en route to the 3A zone banner and a spot at provincials, while the senior boys played inspired volleyball on their home court to score zone silver and also earned an invite to take on the best in Alberta.

The T-Birds were the talk of the North Central 3A Zone Volleyball Championships held in Morinville and Westlock Nov. 18-19, as the top-seeded girls dominated the field in Morinville from start to finish going 8-0 in sets and 4-0 in matches throughout the round robin and playoffs. The Saturday-night final versus the host Morinville Community School Wolves was almost anticlimactic as the T-Birds won the zone banner by scores of 25-12, 25-20 to punch their ticket to the Alberta Schools’ Athletics Association 3A Volleyball Championships Nov. 24-26 at Winston Churchill High School in Lethbridge.

Coach Leanne Huppertz said the girls were all business at the zones and didn’t take any points off. The zone title is the club’s third tournament gold of the season to go along with a trio of second-place finishes.

“We’re ecstatic. We were confident going in, but we didn’t want to be overconfident. The girls pushed through and persevered and really deserved this zone title,” said Huppertz. “The girls have really come together as a team, they have so much confidence in each other. When we come into the huddle, we as coaches give them a bit of feedback but they’re the ones leading the conversation which is great to see.”

Looking ahead to provincials, Huppertz likes their chances as she has an idea of the teams they’ll be facing and said they stack up well against all comers. With five Grade 12s and five Grade 11s, plus three Grade 10s, the T-Birds are a veteran bunch who are ready to play their best ball of the season in Lethbridge.

“We’ve continued to improve and progress throughout the year and are peaking at the right time. I’m very optimistic for what we can do at provincials,” she said. “It’s going to be a special weekend for sure and one we’re all looking forward to. It’s going to be challenging but we’ll take it one game at a time, play hard and see where the cards fall.”

Boys also bound for Lethbridge

Meanwhile in the friendly confines of RFS, the senior boys played their best volleyball of 2022 to earn a spot at provincials. The club posted a 3-0 match record in the round robin, dropping only one set to Athabasca, while in the playoffs the T-Birds semifinal match versus Morinville was a rollercoaster as the boys took the first set 25-22, only to fall 15-25 in the second, but rebounded with a 15-12 victory in the clincher.

With the Top 2 teams earning a berth to provincials, only the zone banner and bragging rights were at stake in the final, which pitted the T-Birds against their long-standing rivals, the Barrhead Composite High School Gryphons. Although the Gryphons were the top-ranked team in the zone, the T-Birds gave them everything they could handle, but dropped the match 23-25, 20-25.

Coach Aaron Graf said this weekend’s result is the culmination of the goal they set for themselves at the start of the year — to make provincials.

“What can I say, I’m quite happy with the boys. They’re really starting to understand the game a lot more and were able to focus on one point at a time to find success,” said Graf. “This was the tournament that we had been working towards all season … all the practices and all the tournaments. It was gratifying for sure.”

With only three Grade 12s and seven Grade 10s, this is a young bunch that’s definitely playing their best when it counts. Graf wants the boys to enjoy the experience at provincials and understand that it’s an “honour” just to make it this far.

“The biggest thing is to enjoy the experience and take it all in and embrace the moment and not take it for granted,” he said. “This is their moment as a lot of people don’t get to go to provincials. This is truly an honour.”

George Blais,