There were a few tears shed, but the Lindsay Thurber Raiders could leave the provincial high school 4A volleyball championships feeling good about themselves.
Both the LTCHS boys and girls captured silver on their home court Saturday, losing to deserving champions.
The LTCHS girls dropped a 13-25, 15-25, 22-25 decision to the Jasper Place Rebels of Edmonton while the boys lost 22-25, 23-25, 16-25 to the top-seeded Dr. E.P. Scarlett Lancers of Calgary.
The LTCHS boys came into the tournament ranked fourth and left second.
“I’m proud of my guys, We fought all year just to gain respect and gain confidence in ourselves,” said Raiders head coach Terence McMullen. “I’m so proud of the way we grew as a team. We lost one of our middles and lost some size which would have helped and also Caden (power hitter Caden Shybunka) was playing with a knee injury, but everyone stepped up down the line.”
Raiders lost six-foot-five Jacob Alexander with a patella injury.
The Raiders reached the final with an impressive 21-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-13 victory over Edmonton Christian while the Lancers defeated Jasper Place 25-14, 25-17, 25-20.
The Raiders stayed with them most of the way in the final, but were just a bit short.
“We did everything we could,” said McMullen. “We switched blockers, changed setting tempos and switched who we served to. We did what we could but they have a stud on that side (middle Jackson Howe) and a whole bunch of other good players.
“Overall they hit the ball hard and played good defence. We tried to match them point-for-point, but they were just better today.”
The Raiders had problems handling Howe, who had 10 kills and four blocks. Yet Reece Lehman did a good job of getting his hands on several of Howe’s attacks in the third set. Lehman finished strong with 13 kills, three blocks and an ace.
Six-foot-three middle Andy Reed, gave up some height, but finished with five blocks and two kills while Shybunka had six kills and setter Christopher Graham had 19 assists.
“If you told me prior to the season we would be playing in the final in our gym I’d take that any day of the week,” said McMullen. “I’m disappointed, yet proud of what we did and down the road those guys will be proud as well.”
The LTCHS girls ran up against a Jasper Place team that was playing at the top of their game, both offensively and defensively.
Defence and passing is usually the strength of the Raiders, but on this day the Rebels held an edge in both areas.
“Jasper Place played extremely well in all areas,” said Raiders head coach Kirsten de Zutter, who had only two Grade 12s starting.
“This is a huge accomplishment for a young team. We battled all year as a team. We relied on each other and really this was a great result for our team and I believe there’s more to come.”
De Zutter has four provincial titles and now four silver medals, under her belt since arriving at LTCHS.
In fact the Raiders reached the provincial final seven years in a row, winning a record three straight gold, two silver, a gold and another silver.
All the gold came with at least one big-time player on the roster. The first three came with Julie Young leading the way and fourth with Jaime Thibeault in the middle. Both Young and Thibeault played with the national team.
“This was a team effort,” added de Zutter. “It was an enjoyable experience. I’m proud to be the coach of the Raiders and proud of the fight they put in. We have no regrets.”
The Raiders reached the final with a 24-21, 25-18, 25-17 win over William Aberhart. The Rebels downed Western Canada 23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-21.
Journey Flewell had 10 kills in the final with Jayda Aasman adding six kills. Nicole Thomas had four blocks and two kills and Hayley Lalor 17 assists,
Mandy Behiels had 18 kills for the Rebels.
Jasper Place finished third on the boys’ side downing Edmonton Christian 3-0 while Aberhart stopped Western Canada 3-2 for bronze in the girls’ side.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.