Lightning experience to carry teams
The Hunting Hills Lightning have the experience they need to do well in the Central Alberta High School Volleyball League.
Both the boys and girls have seven returnees, and they may need every bit of that experience to earn a berth in the provincial 4A championships. Only one team from the Central Alberta zone will qualify for the championships this season, a change from previous years when they got two berths.
“The provincials are down to 12 teams from 16,” explained Adam Sillery, who is in his first season as head coach of the boys’ program. “So it means our league is that much more important.”
The top-place finisher, among the three Red Deer schools, will receive a bye into the best-of-three zone final with the other two schools meeting in a sudden death semifinal.
Girls head coach Scott Luck knows there will be added pressure on all the teams when it comes to the playoffs.
“But pressure is what you make of it,” he said. “It’s a process for us and we need to get ourselves consistently playing at the highest level we can and just let things sort themselves out.”
Luck took the Lightning to the provincials last season and knows that experience will be a benefit.
“We’re returning a lot of the key players from last year and most of them were Grade 11s. So having them return helps. But consistency will be the key and we’re still working on that.”
Luck has three middle blockers back from last season in Sarah Engbretson, Maddie Klootwyk and Rachelle Fallis to go with power hitters Malisha Stuve, Thea McLachlin and Hanna Delemont and libero/setter Jessica VanMulligen.
The remaining five players are all up from a strong JV program that won the league title, snapping an 11-year run by Notre Dame.
Dana Stoyberg is at setter with Taylor Sawchuk on the right side, Jaden Robinson at power, Kristin Tofani in the middle and Whitney Milhousen at libero.
The Lightning showed some of their talent Tuesday as they beat Wetaskiwin 25-19, 25-15 and Central Alberta Christian High School Knights of Lacombe 25-11, 25-18 in an interlocking tournament at Hunting Hills.
As well H.J. Cody of Sylvan Lake also beat Wetaskiwin and CACHS 2-0.
Luck isn’t strictly using a veteran starting lineup.
“There are three girls up from JV who are pushing the seniors and have earned themselves spots on the court,” he said.
The Lightning have already defeated Lindsay Thurber this season, but have yet to face the Notre Dame Cougars in league play. They lost twice to the Cougars in tournament action
Meanwhile, the Hunting Hills boys defeated Notre Dame 3-1 Monday and will face LTCHS Oct, 24 at home. LTCHS and Notre Dame clash Oct. 15 at Notre Dame.
Of the seven veterans on the boys’ squad, six are in Grade 12 with left side hitter Krishen Singh in Grade 11.
The other Grade 12s are libero Bennett Williams, right side Mike Ward, middles Chase Walper and Nathan Damiani, setter Ryan Beatson and left side Bobby Hamilton.
The Grade 11s are setter Mackenzie Wright, libero Chris Moritz and left side Chris Peterson.
While Sillery is in his first year with the team he coached the Grade 9 program and knows all the players.
“I’ve coached all the kids and so I know them and they know what I want. Plus they’ve played together for several years, which helps.”
Sillery is strong at setter with Beatson, but doesn’t feel he has one dominant player.
“Ryan is level headed in game situations. He’s solid. But overall we don’t have one guy who does everything. We’re pretty consistent across the board and we need to all play well to have success.”
They do have a solid defence, which they need as they don’t have a lot of height.
“We need to be good defensively against taller teams, plus we need to be better making offensive decisions.”
The Lightning are ranked fifth in the province after finishing third in all three tournaments they’ve entered this year, including the 32-team U of A affair.
“We still have three local tournaments and the Super South tournament in Lethbridge, so we’ll get a good read on all our opposition this year,” said Sillery.
• LTCHS is fifth and Notre Dame ninth in the boys’ rankings while Notre Dame is third and Hunting Hills eighth on the girls’ side.