Lloydminster Comprehensive’s chances at winning a medal are slim – but that is not what they are playing for. The public high school’s senior boys’ and girls’ volleyball teams will host the 4A provincial tournament starting today and will have to play heavy spoiler if they want to knock off the province’s best teams to bring home a medal.
That is a tall order for the high school that is one of the largest in the Northeast zone, but falls to near the bottom in student population when put up against the rest of the province.
So for the Barons, small goals are the victories they are after during the provincial tournament, as both the boys and girls look to finish the tournament higher than their ranking coming in.
“Ultimately, we want to finish better than our ranking,” said Cory Gratton, girls’ team head coach. “Winning matches at this level can be difficult, there are a lot of good teams. I want (the girls) to play their best in front of their friends and family and want them to enjoy the experience. Anything beyond that will be a bonus.”
The girls’ team comes in ranked No. 11 out of 12 teams. The boys are a position better, No. 10. It should come as no surprise that above the Barons on both sides of the draw are teams from major city centres, as Jasper Place High School from Edmonton is the top seed on the boys’ side, while William Aberhart from Calgary is No. 1 on the girls’.
Cold Lake and Bonnyville high schools find themselves ranked below the Barons, to continue the reflection of population to seed in the tournament.
The boys are no strangers to the provincial tournament, having been eight times out of the last 12 years, but with a lack of club members who commit to volleyball only, it’s tough for the Barons to be competitive with the large centres. That’s why the boys’ team is keeping their expectations realistic and hope to come out of the round robin play as the top seed in their pool, which would help avoid some of the top seeded teams in the playoff round.
It would also easily accomplish their goal of finishing above their ranking.
“For our Grade 12s, this will be their third provincial championship,” said Aaron Canfield, boy’s head coach. “They know what to expect going in and they know where we kind of stand, measuring up to the other 11 teams. To finish in our preliminary round robin pool is a goal for ours. Then we’ll see how that first playoff round goes.
“I’d like to finish in the top 10 in the whole tournament.”
While the boys’ team will have five Grade 12 returning players, the girls will have 10 returning players next season, so for them, provincials is a chance for them to see how the best calibre of volleyball is played in the province, in hopes that in the future, they can make a run at a medal.
“We’ll take what we learn from this tournament and the experience and bring that to next season,” said Gratton. “We’re going to focus on small goals throughout the tournament. Being underestimated, like in past provincials, people look at the rankings and underestimate you and we’ve had good matches and been successful against those teams.
“We know we are going in as an underdog and we’ll use that to our advantage.”
For the Barons, it also means the best volleyball in the province will come to Lloydminster, giving its athletes and the city a different experience than they are used to.
“It’s nice to host and give some of our athletes a chance to see what it is like,” said Canfield. “It gives our community a chance to see high calibre volleyball at the 4A level. This community hasn’t seen the high calibre of volleyball at the high school level.”