You’ve heard these sorts of stories begin like this: team hasn’t travelled in two years, no tournaments to play, players nervous about how they’ll do, team goes out and wins division at provincial championship and goes undefeated to do it.
If you haven’t, that’s how it played out for the Crush Volleyball Club’s 17U girls squad in Calgary last weekend.
The group of young ladies went out and captured top spot in Division 3 at the Volleyball Alberta Provincial Championships in Calgary this past Sunday. They did so by beating FOG (Friends of George) Red out of Edmonton in straight sets in the best-of-three final — their sixth straight win of the tournament to go against not one loss.
It was the first time the ladies had hit the road in two-plus years and Mike Mathison, one of the team’s coaches, said there wasn’t too much pressure on the girls going in.
“We had no idea what to expect because we haven’t seen anything outside the NWT in a couple of years,” he said. “It was a chance to play and get ready for nationals.”
The team was in Division 3 simply because that’s where they were placed by the tournament organizers. Teams are put in a division based mostly on how they perform at the Volleyball Alberta Premier Tournaments, which are held prior to provincials. Because the Crush didn’t play in any of the three tournaments in their age category, they were automatically placed in Division 3.
And not only were they put there, they were the bottom seed: eighth out of eight.
“There was no budging on that from the organizers,” said Mathison. “Because we hadn’t played until now, that’s what we were given.”
They began in pool play versus the Tri Area Warriors out of Spruce Grove, Alta.; the Kodiaks out of Cranbrook, B.C.; and SAVC Shock of Calgary. They would win all three of their pool play contests to go into the playoffs unbeaten, where they would play the Warriors in the quarter-final. After beating them for a second time, the ladies would face off with the Edson Elite, the top team from the other pool, in the semifinal. That match would go all three sets but the NWT athletes would prevail to move on and beat FOG Red in the final.
“It worked out really well for us,” said Mathison. “It played out perfectly, and it was a real good confidence-builder for the girls.”
There were individual honours for Tamara Mathison and Oleta Duru as both were named to the division’s all-star team following completion of the tournament.
Now it’s on to the Volleyball Canada Youth Nationals in Edmonton and the ladies will be in action starting on May 19. It’s what’s known as a ‘super-national’ this year with all teams in every division within the age category converging on the Alberta capital, as opposed to having certain divisions being played in different cities.
Mathison said nationals is usually a good set-up.
“You usually get seeded with one of the big teams and a couple of others and you see how you do after day one,” he said. “You go into another section on day two and by the time you’re in the playoffs, you end up where you should be. It’s good to get some wins under our belt before we go and get some confidence.”