Raiders have talent to win championship
The Lindsay Thurber Raiders have the talent to win the Central Alberta High School boys’ 4A volleyball championship, but they still have some work to do.
“We have the skill but we need to work on our efficiency,” said Raiders head coach Terence McMullen. “The idea is to reach a level at practice and take that onto the court. We struggle from time to time in maintaining our efficiency. We still have some elementary errors we need to correct. But we also have over a month to be where we need to be.”
The Raiders, Hunting Hills Lightning and the Notre Dame Cougars are battling for the top spot in the zone and with only one team advancing to the provincials, being on top at the end has that much greater meaning.
“That certainly puts more pressure to do well and makes the league more worthwhile,” said McMullen. “It’s not the best situation, but it just means you have to be the better team.”
If McMullen has his way the Raiders will simply be a tough team to play when it counts the most.
“We want a team that keeps the ball in play and frustrates the opposition,” he said. “We certainly have some talent and guys who can go on to the next level, but they have to continue to advance. We have players coming our club volleyball where they played at the U15 and U16 levels, but now they’re up against older guys and the game changes. They have to learn that style of play.”
McMullen has five veterans on his roster with only two of them — libero Jacob Paterson and middle Erik Hoehne — in Grade 12. Right side Greg Chauvet, who moved up from the JV program, is the only other Grade 12 on the squad.The other returnees are setter Matt Graham and power hitters Cody Domoney and Tanner Rehn.
The other newcomers are setter Tanner Shapka, middles John Lyvler and Jayden Halsey, left sides Gage Rehn and Brian Grenier and right side Scott Irvine.
McMullen looks at Graham and Hoehne as the team leaders, although he sees some of that in is other three veterans.
“The guys have been here a year and should show that leadership,” he said.
The Raiders downed the Stettler Wildcats 3-0 to improve to 4-0 in league play Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the girls’ edition of the Raiders have a similar situation as the boys.
Coaches Kirsten DeZutter, Barb Young and Kate Archer have five players back from last season.
“It’s taken a while for us to come together,” said DeZutter. “Whenever you have a new group it takes time for them to get used to everyone’s tendencies.”
The Raiders have shown signs of jelling, but are still a step away at times.
“We’re right there, but we make that one error, or one mistake and it costs us,” added DeZutter. “But for the most part we’re pleased with our development.”
Three of the veterans — setter Cara Vandervlis, power hitter Blyss Gellert and libero Madison Lee — are in Grade 12 as is setter Claire Wilson. Power hitter Rivver Flewell and outside hitter McKenna Barthel are also veterans and in Grade 11.
The other new faces are outside hitters Erin Seater and Kennedy Graham, power hitter Jamie Cheney and middles Hope Fulton, Kelsie Smale and Emma Newton. Vandervlis started the season as the setter, but is sharing with Wilson of late.
“They definitely challenge each other and are doing a good job,” said DeZutter, who has brought in former RDC Kings player Blake Henwood in to work with the setters. Henwood is also an assistant coach at RDC.
“He certainly helps and both players have responded well,” said DeZutter, who, along with Young, added Archer to the staff this season.
“When we had success we did it the Raiders way and that’s something we want to instill in all our players and somehting Kate will help with. We feel that’s an important part of our team.”
DeZutter can see the potential, but also sees some areas that need work on.
“But they’re things we can fix,” she said
Both LTCHS squads will compete in the Super South tournament in Lethbridge this weekend, then host their own tournament, Oct. 19-20.