Lightning 3 Raiders 2
One would expect teams to be at the top of their game heading into the playoffs.
Then again there’s always playoff jitters and players trying to do too much.
That appeared to be the case for both the Hunting Hills Lightning and Lindsay Thurber Raiders when they clashed in the opening match of the Central Alberta High School 4A Boy’s Volleyball playoffs at LTCHS Wednesday.
In the end the Lightning made fewer mistakes and pulled out a 16-25, 26-24, 23-25, 30-28, 15-12 victory.
“It wasn’t pretty, it was the battle of the uglies,” said Lightning head coach Trevor Pikkert. “Neither team played that well, but at this time of the season a W is a W. But I know they can play better and so can we.”
Both teams indicated they had a solid week or practice and were expecting more.
“But with playoff jitters it’s always different,” added Pikkert.
Raiders head coach Terence McMullen agreed, but felt the Lightning executed better when it really mattered.
“They played better defence in the end and dug a lot of balls and when they took a swing they took a good swing while we were hesitant at times.
“They didn’t play a perfect game, but played well defensively which seemed to frustrate us and some of our guys thought they had to do a bit more. In the end their best players were better than our best players, at least as a team.”
Pikkert made a couple of changes to his lineup in the fourth set, inserting middle Logan Marshall and outside hitter Kristen Sing.
“I preach to these guys all the time that I can throw out four or five lineups . . . that I’m comfortable with everyone on the team and tonight it showed. I thought we stayed aggressive at the end of the sets late, something we didn’t do when we lost.”
McMullen also went to his bench in an effort to find the right combination.
“Some of the bench guys came in and played with a lot of energy and I thought my Grade 10 middle (Tanner Rehn) played well.”
Playoff action continues tonight with the Lightning visiting the Notre Dame Cougars at 6 p.m. The Raiders host the Cougars Friday at 6 p.m.
“Hopefully we have something left in the tank,” said Pikkert.
“The thing is it’s in our hands now. We win and we’re off to the provincials.”
The Raiders still have their playoffs hopes in their hands. They need to beat Notre Dame to guarantee at least a tie-breaker on Saturday.
“It’ll be tough no matter what,” said McMullen. “If Dame wins they can punch their ticket to the provincials by beating us, or of Hunting wins they go and Notre Dame will have their backs to the wall.” But so will the Raiders and they do have a day off.
“That was why it was important to finish first in the league. It gave us a day off so we can practice and prepare for Friday. The main thing is to make sure we execute.”
Meanwhile on the girls’ side, the Notre Dame Cougars beat the LTCHS Raiders 27-25, 25-12, 25-19 and now have a day off prior to facing Hunting Hills Friday at 6 p.m. at Notre Dame.
The Raiders meet the Lightning tonight at 6 p.m. at Hunting Hills.
A Lightning win will give them and the Cougars a berth in the provincials, set for Nov. 24-26 at Strathcona in Edmonton. The boys’ provincials are at Dr E.P. Scarlett in Calgary.