Lightning 3 Cougars 1
What playoff jitters the Hunting Hills Lightning had they got rid of Wednesday during a 3-2 victory over the Lindsay Thurber Raiders.
On the other hand the Notre Dame Cougars were making their first start of the Central Alberta 4A high school boys’ volleyball playoffs Thursday and still had their jitters.
“Wednesday we had the jitters, but we got those out of our system and played our game today,” said Lightning head coach Trevor Pikkert following a 27-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-21 victory over the Cougars at Notre Dame.
“Tonight we kept it on an even keel and did a lot of things better.”
But then they had to as the Cougars are one of the premier teams in the province, as they went into the match ranked fourth in Alberta with the Lightning fifth.
“They have a very good team and are a lot of fun to play,” added Pikkert. “We’ve faced them about eight times this year and it’s the same every time. It’s an intense battle and despite winning in four, tonight was no different.”
Cougars head coach Sherry Schulzke felt her troops could still play better.
“We did have some jitters early on and hopefully they’re gone now,” she said. “But give Hunting Hills credit. They’re a very good team and blocked extremely well early on.”
The win gave the Lightning the top seed out of the Central zone at the provincials and should put them in the top pool. The Cougars will face the Raiders tonight at Lindsay Thurber to determine the second team to advance to the provincials,.
“I wish all three teams could go,” said Schulzke. “This zone is that tough. In fact all three teams are ranked in the top 10.”
Pikkert says the competition in the zone goes a long way to success at the provincial level.
“I believe that’s a big advantage once we get to the provincials, because we have such a tough road to get out of our zone. All three schools have great players and great coaching and because of that every match is a battle.”
Cougars 3 Lightning 1
On the girls’ side the Cougars eliminated the Lightning from the playoffs with a 21-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-23 victory and set the stage for a battle with the Raiders tonight for the top seed in the zone.
“It’s nice to get this win so it takes some pressure off us, but our intension is to win at Thurber and retain our zone championship,” said Cougars head coach Chris Wandler, who felt his team wasn’t at their best Thursday, especially early on.
“We were just a little off and Hunting took advantage of that,” he said. “We struggled to find any rhythm. It was nice to have a five-set match as we took some time to develop that.”
The Lightning, who lost 3-2 to the Raiders Wednesday, looked sharp early in the first set, but the momentum began to chance late in that set.
“Because we played Wednesday we carried a lot of emotion over to today and took advantage of that in that first set,” said Lightning head coach Scott Luck. “But they started to gain some momentum of their own and some fatigue set in from having to play a tough five-set match Wednesday.”
The Lightning are also one of the younger teams in the province with nine players eligible to return next season.
“We came a long way this year and this experience will only help them next year,” added Luck.
On the other hand the Cougars have the experience to overcome a slow start when neither of their starting power hitters — Morgan Hadden or Mackenzie Quinn — were sharp.
In fact Wandler substituted Jenna Ronnie into the lineup midway through the first set, which seemed to be the spark the team needed.
“She gave us a lot of energy and that carried over,” he said. “As well Morgan and Mackenzies started to find their rhythm.”
l The girls get action underway at 6 p.m. tonight with the boys to follow . . . The provincials will be held in Lethbridge.