According to the latest provincial rankings the Hunting Hills Lightning senior boys’ volleyball team is ranked No. 7 in the province.
Those rankings could be a bit low.
The Lightning have been one of the better teams in the province the last couple of weeks, winning the Notre Dame tournament and finishing second to No. 1 ranked Grande Prairie at Lindsay Thurber.
But Lightning head coach Trevor Pikkert isn’t worried about the rankings.
“It’s not something we want to concentrate on,” he said. “It’s where we are at the end of the season that matters.”
The Lightning have all the ingredients to challenge for the provincial title. They have experience with six veterans on their 10-man roster, along with good height and defensive ability.
What they still need is a bit more consistency, according to Pikkert.
“We need to play well all the time, rather than when they feel like it, but last weekend we were a bit more consistent and the guys are starting to prepare before the matches,” he said.
The Lightning have one of the better right side players in the province in six-foot-eight Jared Rushton. Travis Czainski is back as starting setter with middle Cody Bourque, power hitter Connor Stewart, libero/left side Ian Pettifor and setter/left side Aaron Pierik also back from last season.
Six-foot-five Kyle Klootwyk, who didn’t play last season, and six-foot-four Chris Karambamuchero from Zimbabwe are new in the middle with outside hitter Mark Mitchell and libero Colton Smethurst up from the junior varsity program.
The Lightning are still not part of the Central Alberta High School League, but play a series of tournaments, which is fine with Pikkert.
“It’s nice to get the consistency. We have consistent practice times each week, which everyone likes. We’re also getting into a number of good tournaments this season, which gives us the competition we need to continue to improve and be ready for the zone playoffs and the provincials.”
Meanwhile the senior girls’ team has a new coach in Scott Luck, who directed the Grade 9 boys’ squad last season.
Luck takes over a team that has a lot of upside with seven veterans, but only two of those — power hitter Ainsley Wright and middle Cassandra Stuve — are in Grade 12.
“They had a very young team last year with five Grade 10s, so this year we’re more of a veteran team, yet we’re still young,” said Luck, who kept a 14-player roster, including two Grade 10s and seven Grade 11s.
“We had so many good players we just felt they all deserved to be here,” he said.
The five veterans in Grade 11 are power hitter Amanda Stonehouse, middle Kristen Tisdale, liberos Patty Beatson and Sarah Petriew and setter Corbie Fedyk.
Middle Haley Irwin and setter Whitney Robinson are the other two Grade 11s on the roster while right side Erica Hogan and power hitter Morgan Herle are both in Grade 10.
The other Grade 12s are power hitters Mara Thompson and Sara Codd and right side Lexi Kambeitz.
The Lightning aren’t ranked in the top 10 in the province, but did receive an honourable mention in the last rankings.
“So far this season we haven’t been results focused,” said Luck. “We’ve had some success as we won the Medicine Hat tournament and tied for third in Lethbridge, but so far we’ve focused more on getting better.”
Luck wants to be at his best for the zone playoffs as only two of the three city teams advance to the provincials.
“We’re competitive with the other two teams and that’s what we’re working towards,” he said. “If we’re competitive with those teams this year we’ll have nine players back next year and will be that much better.”
l Hunting Hills will host their annual tournament, Nov, 5-7.