For the first time in 10 years, the Hunting Hills senior boys volleyball team has been crowned 4A central zone champions.
On Friday, the Lightning won it all in game two after a dominant performance against the Notre Dame Cougars winning all three sets 26-24, 27-25, and 25-14 to take the best-of-three series. The night before was a different story between the two teams on Thursday when the Lightning took a narrow 3-2 victory in game one.
Head coach Blake Henwood said it was great to achieve their goal after they fell just short of the title last year.
“I think there was a little extra motivation for the guys who were a part of last year’s team too. They didn’t like the feeling of finishing in second place and felt like there was maybe some unfinished business this year,” he said adding it was an added bonus finishing ahead of Lindsay Thurber and Notre Dame.
“It’s been 10 years since our school has won a zone for boys so it’s been a while but probably some relief going on with some of the guys too.”
Henwood said this season they’ve had a good mixture of guys who were on the team last year and certainly have some players who are regarded as some of the top players in the province.
“They’re a very coachable group. They’ve surprised me a little bit this year in terms of how willing they are to continue to push themselves and not just settle for being average or just good enough,” he said.
After some early success this season Henwood was worried about how it would affect his team but they continued to show up every day and put in the necessary work.
With the central zone championship win under their belts, the Lightning will head to the 2022 4A ASAA provincial championships in Lethbridge. Ranked fourth in Pool A Hunting Hills will compete in a tough group among the top three teams in Alberta. In round-robin play on Thursday, they will play against Salisbury High School from Sherwood Park, Magrath High School, and Centennial High School from Calgary.
Out of the 12 teams who’ve qualified for provincials, Henwood said approximately eight teams have a good shot at winning it all, with themselves included.
“It’s a pretty balanced group this year in terms of competition. I don’t think there is one clear-cut favourite. I would certainly put us in the mixture but we will have to be very very good and consistent and play as well as we can especially come playoffs,” he said. “If we can sneak our way into a semi-final and maybe catch a hot streak during a match like that I would be super excited about that.”
Ultimately he’s just looking forward to seeing how they compare to some of the top teams in the province. They’ve played a handful of some of the teams already earlier in the season and will know what to expect come this weekend.
The Hunting Hills senior boys volleyball team has never won a provincial title but has brought home two silver medals. The first came in 2001 and the second was last season. Henwood explained they hope to be the first team in school history to bring home the gold medal.
“It certainly would be a pretty massive accomplishment and like I said it will be a big-time challenge. There are some really good teams there with some great competition for us but that’s what you want at the end of the year,” he said.