For the second year in a row, the Lindsay Thurber Raiders senior girls’ volleyball team are 4A Alberta Schools Athletic Association provincial champions.
The Raiders played the Salisbury Composite High School on Saturday to become champions after the three-day tournament in Lethbridge.
Head coach Kirsten DeZutter said it was a phenomenal and exhilarating experience to win another provincial title.
The Raiders were ranked number one in their pool with Salisbury close behind in the number two slot. Also in their pool was number three Strathcona and number four William Aberhart. During the round-robin round, the Raiders defeated all three teams in their pool to automatically make the playoff quarterfinal.
“That power pool day is a really tough day where a lot of the teams that are in your pool you’re quite evenly matched with them… You have to have that competitive mindset right off the bat and you have to be able to put your best foot forward and try to do your best,” she said adding it was a bit of a grueling schedule the first day.
“You’re competing at a high level as soon as you get off that bus and walk into that gym. You have to be ready to roll and compete against the top-level teams in the province.”
Once in the playoff round, the Raiders defeated Chinook in the quarter-finals before knocking out Strathcona in the semi-finals to make it to the provincial final.
To keep the team focused the Raiders tried to simplify it and discussed breaking the tournament into single matches and point by point.
“The whole time we just talked about being supportive and encouraging of each other. Basically, the way to get through this is that everyone is supporting and building each other up. Celebrating every point that we do earn and any kind of mistake that we maybe would make in a game that we just need to shake that off and try and get the next one,” DeZutter said.
Team chemistry is high on the priority list for the Lindsay Thurber coaching staff. Being a great teammate is an important aspect of having a positive mindset on and off the court.
“I am really impressed with how they were with each other,” she added. “They are phenomenal human beings and just spending time with them was a real pleasure. When you’re surrounding yourself with people who are great, encouraging and are all striving towards the same goal then really they took care of it themselves.”
With the win, the Raiders have won back-to-back titles, and this is their eighth championship since 2001. The number of wins within the program over the years comes with high expectations and pressure, which DeZutter said her players probably felt throughout the tournament.
“I know already they do have high aspirations. They’re always striving to improve to be better it’s just kind of who they are. We as coaches really try to not put any more pressure on them. We do have high expectations there’s no question… but we try not to put extra pressure on the result. It’s more about the process. It’s about what did we do to get here and what did it take to get here,” she said.
Despite the success of the program the coaching staff tries not to compare current players to former teams but rather focus on the players who are on the team now. They do draw on previous team experiences but the coaching staff said it’s important to get the most out of the players and team each season.
“We do try to put ourselves in their shoes and try to say what would we need right now if I were them… I’m pleased with the approach because it did seem like they responded to that approach,” DeZutter said.