Raiders 3 Lightning 2 (20-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-16, 19-17, Game 1 of best-of-three series)
Back and forth they went, hit for hit, dig for dig, serve for serve.
It was an absolute slugfest; an instant classic or whatever other superlative you choose.
The Lindsay Thurber Raiders and Hunting Hills Lightning dueled it out in a spectacular display of volleyball Thursday night at Hunting Hills High School, in the Game 1 of the best-of-three Central Alberta Schools Athletic Association Women’s 4A Zone Volleyball Final.
The atmosphere was electric, the gym was shaking almost the entire five-set match, with fans from both schools battling it out from the bleachers with competing chants.
On the floor, it was the Raiders who struck the first blow in the battle, winning 19-17 in a wild fifth set and taking the match and the momentum home to Lindsay Thurber Friday night.
“An intense battle. We’ve been battling with them all year and they’re a great team. I was just so proud of our fight and our comeback and I’m just so proud to be a Raider,” said Raiders head coach Kirsten Dezutter.
In the deciding set, the Raiders were cruising with a 10-5 lead, but the dogged Lightning group stormed back. Led by the powerful arm of Avery Burgar, who was a thorn in the Raiders side all night long, Hunting Hills tied the set at 13. They even took a brief 16-15 lead, only to fall just short of completing the comeback.
Grade 10 left side Paige Roslinsky was also huge for the Lightning with a powerful serve that kept the Raiders off balance.
Grade 12 captain Chenee Lehman, part of both Raiders provincial runs, helped keep the ship steady for her side.
Early in the night, it started strong for the Lightning, as they won the first set 25-20. The pendulum swung back to the Raiders, who clinched set two 25-19. Back it went the other way, as Hunting Hills won set three 25-18 before the Raiders won the fourth 25-16 and were rolling.
There were lots of emotions to manage for Dezutter and her group, who are the two-time Alberta Schools Athletic Association 4A provincial volleyball champions, but came into the zone playoffs ranked third.
“I’m loving that they’re playing with emotion. They’re showing me and the crowd and their teammates and showing everybody that it means something to them,” Dezutter said.
“I love when they play with emotion and I just couldn’t be prouder of this group. What a great team effort.”
Hunting Hills had their number this year and were the top-ranked team in the zone coming into playoffs.
But in a three-match series, all bets are off.
“We knew they weren’t going to quit. That’s what Hunting (Hills) is all about. I like to believe so are the Raiders,” Dezutter said.
“It’s a tough battle and there’s a great group of athletes on both sides on the court. I have a great amount of respect for their coaching staff and the players on their team. I just couldn’t be prouder.”
Game 2 of the best of three series goes Friday at Lindsay Thurber with the first serve set to fly at 6 p.m.
In the men’s CASAA 4A Zone Final, the Lindsay Thurber Raiders knocked off the Notre Dame Cougars in three sets. Game 2 of that series is Friday following the women’s game.