There’s a familiar duo directing the girls’ edition of the Lindsay Thurber Raiders this season.
Kirsten DeZutter rejoined Barb Young at the helm of the Raiders after being on maternity leave last year.
“It’s awesome to be back, I really missed it,” said DeZutter, who has four players on the roster, who she helped coach two years ago when they won a silver at the provincials. “It’s neat to see how far those four girls have come since they were in Grade 10. They’ve all developed a tremendous amount.”
The four — left side Royal Richardson, who played on the Team Alberta U18 squad, middle/right side Sam Clutton, libero/setter Carlee Harrison and setter Robyn Froese — are expected to be team leaders this season. Overall the Raiders have six veterans with middle Allyson Saunders and outside hitter Jill Thomas joining the four three-year veterans.
The Raiders also have two players in from outside the city in left side Fallon Schallin from Delburne and right side Sidney Ponto from Forestburg.
Ponto is presently out with an ankle injury.
The others on the roster include Grade 10 middle Monique Laforce, left side Telaina Snider and middle Casey Link.
“We have excellent depth and experience with nine Grade 12s and two Grade 11s and almost all of them played club,” said Young, who feels this years team could be better than last year.
The Raiders went into the provincials ranked No. 1 last year, but ran into a couple of injuries which left them out of the medals for the first time in years.
“I try to not to look back at last year . . . it was the way it was,” said Young. “This year I feel good about our team. We have a lot of potential and it’s also good to have Kirsten back. She adds a lot to the program.”
The Raiders are ranked No. 4 in the province, but Young says there is a group of outstanding teams.
“This year will be very tight,” she said. “William Aberhart (of Calgary) who won last year are extremely talented. As well we’ll be pushed in our league.”
Thursday the Raiders beat the Lacombe Rams 25-16, 25-16, 25-20 in Central Alberta league play at Notre Dame.
The LTCHS boys also have a familiar face on their bench in Kevin Tennant, who directed the Raiders to a silver medal at the 2004 provincials.
Following the strong season Tennant coached the JV program for two years, took a year off, then directed the JVs again last season.
“I’m excited to be back,” he said. “It’s fun to be coaching at the senior varsity level as I enjoy the competition and working with one of the better teams in the province.”
The Raiders aren’t ranked in the top 10 in the provincial 4A rankings, but have received an honourable mention.
“I believe we could be in the top 10 by the end of the season,” said Tennant, who has only three players — setter Grady Bowd, right side Ryan Clark and power hitter Eric Rawlinson — back from last season. “Those guys are definitely our leaders. Without them we could be in a some trouble.”
The rest of the 12-man roster all played JV with Tennant last season.
All but one of the new faces are in Grade 11. The other — right side Jordan Aimoe — is in Grade 12. Of the new players power hitter Nathan Zilinski and middle blockers Daniel Grenier and Jelle Geurts are on the starting roster along with the three returnees.
Tennant also uses two liberos — Pearce Just and Evan Foerseter — while the others are power hitters Danny Armstrong and Hayden Slaymaker and setter Haydn McLean.
“Overall we don’t have a lot of height, so we have to rely on strong serving, passing and defence,” said Tennant. “But we do have good athletes and they’re all buying into our defensive philosophy.”
The Raider will be in tough to get out of the zone this season as both the Notre Dame Cougars (third) and Hunting Hills Lightning (eighth) are ranked in the top 10. The top two teams in the zone will advance to the provincials.
“That doesn’t mean anything right now, but then they both have very good teams. So we’ll be pushed to make the provincials,” added Tennant.
l The LTCHS teams will compete in the Notre Dame tournament, Oct. 16-17, then host their own affair, Oct. 23-24.