There was a positive and negative side when the Lindsay Thurber Raiders and Notre Dame Cougars hooked up in boys’ and girls’ quarter-final action in the provincial high school 4A volleyball championships at LTCHS Friday.
On the negative side was the fact two of the four would be dropped into the B side of the three-day tournament. On the positive was the fact that two of the teams were assured of playing for a medal.
In the latter instance it was the Raiders that advanced in both divisions.
The Raiders downed the Cougars, 25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 25-17, in boys’ play, while on the girls’ side the Raiders came away with a 25-20, 18-25, 25-17, 28-26 victory.
While the Raiders managed to win in four sets, boys’ head coach Terence McMullen never took anything for granted.
“It’s always a battle it doesn’t matter how either team played the match before. When it’s them and us both teams are ready and the intensity is high. The rivalry is huge and makes both teams better.
“I told AJ (Cougars head coach AJ Mahoney) our ability to battle is because they make us. Because the two of us push each other, it makes volleyball in central Alberta better as well.
“It’s tough to play those matches but it’s better when you come out on top.”
The only instance when it appeared as if one team was letting down mentally was early in the fourth set when the Cougars were down 14-2. However, they regrouped, and pushed to the end.
“It’s always a battle with Thurber and it’s always physically and mentally draining when we have to try to beat them in five (sets),” said Mahoney. “We couldn’t pull this one out, but credit to Terence for having such a great group. I know we both feel fortunate we’re always so close, it makes both our teams that much better.”
The Cougars reached the quarter-final with a 26-24, 14-25, 25-20, 25-13 victory over Charles Spencer of Grande Prairie in the opening playoff round.
The Cougars will drop to the B side with a shot at finishing fifth.
The Raiders face Edmonton Christian in the 12:30 p.m. semifinal while top-seeded E.P. Scarlett of Calgary faces Jasper Place on the other side.
Edmonton Christian downed Western Canada of Calgary 3-1, while Scarlett stopped Catholic Central of Lethbridge, 3-0, and Jasper Place defeated Harry Ainlay of Edmonton, 3-0.
“I don’t know much about Edmonton Christian as we haven’t faced them this year, but they have a couple of big guys and it will be another battle, but that’s what you expect when there is only four teams remaining in the province,” said McMullen.
The girls contest was as intense as the boys.
“It’s tough, both teams were ready to play,” said Raiders head coach Kirsten de Zutter. “I was so proud of the girls. They showed a lot of resiliency and they didn’t get down when things went against them, instead stayed positive and fought for every point.”
At times the Raiders had problems with the Cougars power hitters — Jade Busssard and Samantha Gagnon.
“Those girls played well, as did their middles and right side,” said de Zutter. “Credit to them that’s what makes Central Alberta volleyball strong,”
Cougars head coach Jeremy Batchelor was equally as proud of his team.
“Super proud of the way they played. There is no hanging their heads. They played a good game against a good team … it was a battle every step of the way, They are always our toughest competition. I thing we bring the best out of them and they bring the best out of us.”
The Cougars downed Bev Facey of Sherwood Park 24-26, 25-15, 25-21, 25-21 to advance to the quarter-finals.
“That win was awesome as well,” said Batchelor. “I think we’ve been playing awesome all weekend, making some good decisions. I’m excited to be in this position and tomorrow we will keep rising.”
The Cougars will face Chinook of Lethbridge in the B-side semifinals.
The Raiders clash with William Aberhart at 10:30 a.m. Aberhart downed Chinook, 3-1. Jasper Place and top-seeded Western Canada meet in the other semifinal.
Jasper Place stopped Memorial of Stony Plain, 3-1, and Western Canada edged Charles Spencer 3-2.
The girls final and bronze medal matches go at 5:30 p.m. with the boys’ at 7:30 p.m.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca.