The Hunting Hills Lightning volleyball teams are carrying momentum into the beginning of the regular season starting next week.
For the first five weeks of the season, the senior boys and girls teams have participated in tournaments and a few exhibition games against teams in their conference. Starting on Oct. 19, each conference game will count towards the standings in the 4A zone before playoffs.
Head coach of the senior boys’ Blake Henwood said he wasn’t sure how his team would stack up against the competition but has seen some good things from his players so far.
“I would say the last couple weeks we’ve tapered off the development a little bit but overall I’m pretty happy with what’s going on to this point,” he said.
They have three players returning after the group from last year was made up of mostly older players. The team he added looks a lot different with a big turnover of players but added they have some Grade 12’s who have helped the team succeed. Henwood said one of their players Kolton Rawlusyk is one of the top players in the province who played a big role on the team last year.
“He’s a nice piece to have and whenever we need to score a big point or do something in a match that can help us take control he seems to be the one we rely on. It’s always nice to have a guy like that,” Henwood added.
The Lightning has no Grade 10s on the roster with the team made up of a mix of Grade 11 and 12s. Joining Rawlusyk this season on the squad are Spencer Zukiwsky, Mac Bengtsson, Levi Nemeth, Kaden Giesbrecht, Gabe Tenhove, Connor Barber, Kalem Ward, Brady Young, Owen Langberg, and Eric Tran.
Due to the Grade 11 players missing a year of competition because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Henwood said there’s lots of learning to do.
“I would love for us to be at the top of our league. I think competing for a zone championship would be our primary goal to start with. And then obviously if we can fulfill that goal and move on to provincials, I think finishing in the top half of the provincial championship is a big goal but it’s certainly attainable if we can do the right things in the right time of year,” he said.
Head coach of the senior girls Adam Sillery said the team is in a good spot after placing second in a pair of tournaments but added the 4A zone is very strong this year.
“Central Alberta girls’ volleyball is alive and well and so we’re very competitive within that zone,” he said. “All four teams, actually even Lacombe has a strong squad this year and battle really hard. That’s great for young kids to have quality matches all the time in playing top-end competition.”
They have seven returning players this season with three of them in Grade 11. He described his squad as young with six out of 10 players in Grades 10 and 11. Hannah Stewart, Avery Sim, Megan McGonigal, Jorja Moyls, Eaven Clark, Saige Rawlusyk, Finley Welch, Ashlyn Emanuel, Laurel Walters, and Raya Jorgensen make up the roster.
“I don’t really have expectations aside from that we just need to come ready to play and battle as well as try to play up to our capability and level,” he added.
Last season the girls finished second in their zone and despite having a younger team they hope to build off the experience.
“I think that was a good experience for those Grade 10s that were playing and now that the Grade 11s are getting more floor time I think that was valuable time spent last year,” Sillery said.
The Lightning will both play on Oct. 19 against the Notre Dame Cougars with the girls beginning at 6 p.m. and the boys will play after.