Even with a year away because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lindsay Thurber Raiders senior women’s volleyball dynasty didn’t stop churning.
The Raiders played host to the Alberta Schools Athletic Association 4A provincial volleyball championships over the weekend and secured another provincial title in the process, the seventh since 2001 for the program, more than any other school in Alberta.
And while all those titles were special in their own right, this one surely carried some extra weight.
“I remember growing up watching back-to-back provincial championships and thinking it was the coolest thing in the world. Especially with last year not happening, this year just feels 100 times bigger. Just so proud,” said Raiders captain and setter Avery Hansen, who was in Grade 9 when the team won the second of back-to-back titles in 2018.
“Not having a season last year really pushed us and this being our home, it was really nice to win it here.”
They win set 2 25-20 and knock off Bowness.
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) November 28, 2021
It was almost two years without high school volleyball for much of the Raiders’ group and the worst start to provincials they could have imagined.
Lindsay Thurber was missing outside hitter Marin Walton, who was key to their zone victory over the Hunting Hills Lightning just a week ago. Then, the Raiders lost both matches on Thursday to start provincials and their chances of winning looked slim.
But by Saturday, the ninth-ranked Raiders looked like a well-oiled machine, knocking off the top-ranked team in the tournament, William Aberhart in the semifinals in two sets, before beating the Bowness Trojans in the final (25-19, 25-20) to capture gold.
“It just tells me how deeply passionate they are about this sport and how much they care to go into an extra gear and I just think their resiliency and their perseverance was out of this world, I’m just so proud,” said Raiders coach Kirsten DeZutter.
“Very special to win on home court, it’s phenomenal… I’m so grateful we could have this championship, we’re just so grateful that some people were able to watch. Every player here feels supported and loved and encouraged. So to do it at home was really awesome.”
In both those games, the Raiders were at a significant height disadvantage, but more than made up for it with stellar serving, passing and defensively play, something DeZutter said they’ve been dedicated to all year.
“We do pride ourselves on defence. We try to work on organizing our defence to try and put us in a good position to maybe transition it back over. We really do work hard on defence in practice and because we have to defend,” DeZutter said.
“I was really proud of how they found a way, dug deep and I can’t say enough.”
Members of the winning Raiders’ team include Olivia Spelt, Sophie Kay, Lara Pettena, Lauren Domoney, Nadia McKeage, Beke Lutterman, Jordyn Rudolph, Jayna Thulien, Andrea Breaban, Madelyn DeZutter, Hanna Mateika, Walton and Hansen. Coaches were Robyn Froese, Danielle Newton, Talbot Walton, Dezutter and manager McKinley Penninga.