Raiders have big challenge to get back on provincial podium

Over the last decade the girls’ edition of the Lindsay Thurber Raiders volleyball team has been one of the dominant programs in the province.

The Lindsay Thurber Raiders boys volleyball team beat Camrose in five sets on Tuesday to kick off their CAHSVL season.

The Lindsay Thurber Raiders boys volleyball team beat Camrose in five sets on Tuesday to kick off their CAHSVL season.

Over the last decade the girls’ edition of the Lindsay Thurber Raiders volleyball team has been one of the dominant programs in the province.

The Raiders have finished out of the medals only twice at provincials since 2000 while winning four gold, three silver and a bronze. Last year they took fourth.

This year’s squad may have their hands full to maintain that lofty position as they go into the season with only three returnees and only one of those — power hitter Telaina Snider — was a starter.

“We have a lot of potential and it will be up to the girls moving up from JV to get us where we need to be,” said Raiders Kirsten DeZutter, who co-coaches with Barb Young.

“We’ll need to work that much harder and there will be more focus on the individual development this year than at times in the past,” added Young.

“But I enjoy that as much as I do motivating,” said DeZutter. “The main thing is we need to play a lot and work on individual skills, which we hope develops into a strong team. But anytime you’re this young there’s a big learning curve.”

Middle blockers Monique Laforce and Casey Link are the other veterans on hand. Only Snider and Link are in Grade 12 while setter Cara Vandervlis, left side/middle Blyss Gellert and middle Brook Newberry, who attended St. Pat’s last year, are in Grade 10.

The rest of the 12-player roster — except for setter Jorgi Flewell — are in Grade 11 and up from the JV program.

Flewell, who is also in Grade 11, played at Central Alberta Christian High School in Lacombe last season.

“It’s the youngest team we’ve had, but it’s exciting to look toward the future,” said Young. “We only lose two players plus our Grade 9 program this year is very strong.”

The Raiders kicked off their 2010 Central Alberta High School League schedule Tuesday at home against Camrose, taking a 25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 22-25, 15-13 victory.

“These matches are good for us in that we get an opportunity to play everyone,” said Young.

Meanwhile, the boys’ edition of the Raiders is in a different situation with seven veterans on the 12-man roster, including five starters.

Two of the starters — Pearce Just and Evan Foerester — play libero and shared playing time.

Also returning to the starting roster is power hitter Nathan Zilinski and middles Daniel Grenier and Jelle Geurts, who is out with a shoulder injury.

“It’s a veteran team and we have confidence we can play with anyone,” said Raiders assistant coach Aaron Yasinski, who directed the team against Camrose with head coach Terence McMullen away.

The Raiders won the match 21-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 15-12.

“We were able to use everyone, which is what we want to do as much as possible,” said Yasinski. “Tonight was good, Camrose gave us a battle and we had to work to win this. We still made some errors we need to eliminate, but the experience was good.”

The other veterans on the club are power hitter Danny Armstrong and setter Haydn McLean while setter Ben McLavish, right side Erik Steenwyk, power hitters Hayden Slaymaker and Reece Aimoe and middle Dom Tait are all up from the JV program.

For several years the Raiders were in the girls’ shadow, something Yasinski feels helped to a degree.

“It’s incentive for sure to keep working and improving, plus it’s a volleyball school and we don’t want to lose,” he said. “As well the girls have been great for us, as they always give us their support.”

The Raiders will host the 4A boys’ provincials Nov. 25-27 while the girls are at Hunting Hills.

The Raiders will receive a bye into the championships, but want to go in the front door, says Yasinski.

“We certainly don’t want to lose to Notre Dame and Hunting Hills, then still get in,” he said. “We want to go in as zone champions.”

drode@bprda.wpengine.com