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Notre Dame Cougars are optimistic ahead of volleyball season

Both teams have new head coaches
Notre Dame Cougars volleyball has officially got their season underway. (Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)

The Notre Dame Cougars are back on the court and are excited for what the season will bring this year.

The Cougars are part of the Senior 4A Volleyball League and began conference play on Sept. 21. Both the boys and girls teams have played every Wednesday since then with the first three weeks as exhibition games. They will officially play their first regular season games on Oct. 19 at home against the Hunting Hills Lightning.

Head coach of the senior boy’s team Sean Boyne said the squad is shaping up nicely so far early in the season.

“The team’s doing great. The returning players have been kind of the studs throughout the season so far. They really are continuing that connection that they had since last year,” he said.

To start the season they’ve participated in two tournaments where they went to the final both times but weren’t able to come home with the win.

I’m excited I think we match up well versus Hunting and Thurber and it’s a tough central division but hopefully, we come out of it,” he added.

Returning players for the boys include Grade 12 captain Gage Weinrauch, Devon Sterling, and Jairus Friesen. The team consists of mostly Grade 11 and 12 players but they also have two Grade 10 athletes who impressed in training camp Gavin Kelly and Jamie Purse.

“I want to win, that goes without doubt. I think winning makes everything more fun but definitely, I think we match up well versus Thurber. Hunting Hills has been a bit of a challenge for us but I think it’s a challenge our team can definitely meet. I’m looking towards a 4A zone victory and then see what happens at provincials,” Boyne said. “I think there are enough gamers on the team, there are enough weapons throughout the lineup that we can definitely do some damage and be a strong team in our conference.”

Boyne took over as head coach this season after former coach AJ Mahoney, who coached for approximately nine years, stepped away from the program. Boyne grew up in Ontario and moved to Red Deer during the summer as a new change. He played for a volleyball team out of Mississauga during his time in high school and played for four years at the University of Western Ontario. He has helped coach teams in the past but this is his first time as head coach.

“Aj, I want to say not even four hours after I got the job he was already on the phone with me saying there are places to go with this team if you want to be a part of it, and it kind of just worked out from there,” he explained.

Head coach of the girl’s team Chris Wandler he’s happy with their start and highlighted the fact they have some great athletes on the team even though they’re undersized.

“Really good athletic, high IQ team which is really nice to see they’ve been coached well during their time in JV and during the club season. Overall it’s been a very nice, positive start to the first three weeks of our season,” he said.

Wandler spent the last few years as head coach of the women’s program at Red Deer Polytechnic but took the job at Notre Dame on an interim basis while the Cougars coach Kirsten Sorenson is on maternity leave. He will also work as an assistant coach for the Queens while returning to the Cougars where he coached a number of years ago.

The girls will have five returning players this season, four of whom are in Grade 12. In total there are four Grade 12 and one Grade 10 student, while the remaining 13 are in Grade 11.

“I think with any competitive high school team your goal is always to win a zone championship and go to provincials. The expectation during the course of the year is to improve every week to get us to that spot where we’re able to compete for that zone championship,” he said.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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