Lightning charges to finals
Lightning 3 Raiders 1
There’s a possibility the Hunting Hill Lightning took the Lindsay Thurber Raiders for granted . . . just a bit.
But whatever the reason they weren’t at the top of their game in the opening set of the best-of-five Central zone 4A high school girls’ volleyball semifinal at Hunting Hills Tuesday.
But after dropping the opening set 16-25 the Lightning pulled it together to win the next three sets 25-17, 25-16, 25-18 and earn a date with the Notre Dame Cougars in a best-of-three final that begins Thursday at 6 p.m. at Hunting Hills.
“I don’t know if it was the case, that we were overlooking them a bit . . . could be a little, but the big thing was Thurber executed in that first set and we didn’t,” said Lightning head coach Scott Luck. “I guess there could be something about home court advantage, but we also didn’t know what was coming at us. But things changed the last three sets.”
The Lightning eliminated a lot of their mistakes after the first set and solidified their defence, especially in the middle of the court.
“Thurber came out on fire and like we knew they would, but we played much better defence in the next three sets,” agreed Luck.
“The players weren’t letting the ball hit the floor. Jaden Robinson and Jessica Van Mulligen made a number of sprawling plays, which is the type of effort you need to win a playoff match.”
Raiders Kirsten DeZutter, who coaches with Barb Young, felt the Lightning didn’t give much away after the first set.
“We played well, but they stepped their game up,” she said.
“They made a few serving errors in the last set, but other than that they were strong.”
The Lightning do have a bit more experience than the Raiders, who have seven players back next season.
“They do, but I still expect to compete and challenge (for a zone championship) every year and not use youth as a reason,” said DeZutter.
“I know I’m proud of the character of this team. It’s been a pleasure to coach them.”
The Raiders can now look ahead to next year.
“We’re at a point now were we can look ahead and fix a few things, work out a few things.
“But I was still pleased with our effort tonight. You can’t ask for anything more.”
Luck expected nothing less from the Raiders.
“It’s playoff time and every match is going to be a good match. Teams are at their peak and push each other, which is great preparation for what we’ll see moving on. There are tough matches ahead.”
That will be the case against the Cougars, who are ranked sixth in the province. The Lightning are eighth.
Luck knows team defence will be a key.
“They have some strong hitters and we have to be able to close the block and hit the ground and not give up on any ball,” he said.
“We’ve lost all five times we’ve faced them this season, but each time we’re that much closer. The last time we lost the third set 15-13 in a best-of-three.
The thing is to have a game plan and stick to it and play with confidence. We need to do that and see what happens.”
This year is the first time Central Alberta will send only one team to the provincials, Nov. 23-24 in Lethbridge.
“That’s disappointing as we have two of the top eight teams in the province, but we can’t do much about it. It would be nice for both of us to go, but we’ll have to see if it’s No. 6 or No. 8.”
The second game of the series goes Friday at 6 p.m. at Notre Dame with the third game, if necessary, tentatively set for Saturday at 1 p.m.