It was a disappointing finish for the Lloydminster Barons volleyball teams at the 4A provincial tournament held last week, as both the boys’ and girls’ team failed to finish higher than their ranking heading into the 12 team tournament.
The boys’ team came in ranked 10th in the province, but finished 11th overall after defeating Cold Lake, another North Eastern Alberta team, in their final. In their pool play the Baron boys went 1-2, earning a two-set victory over Cold Lake, while dropping a two-set game to Charles Spencer High School out of Grande Prairie, and a close three-set match to George McDougall High School from Airdrie.
Finishing third in their pool missed the goal head coach Aaron Canfield had set going in, as the boys wanted to lead the pool to get a better seeding for playoffs. They would lose 3-0 to E.P. Scarlett in the playoff round, relegating them to the consolation side of the bracket, where another loss to Charles Spencer would put them in the 11th/12th game.
“We kind of wanted top 10 for sure and we missed that opportunity,” said Canfield. “We battled pretty hard. We were in the mix, especially in our pool. We got to play some good volleyball, got to be challenged. A lot of players grew over the weekend. So it was a positive weekend even though we finished just out of the 10 spot.”
The girls’ team didn’t fare much better, despite winning two of their round robin games for a three-way tie for first in the pool that included Sir Winston Churchill High School, École Foothills Composite and Notre Dame High School.
It put the girl Barons in a playoff matchup against Hunting Hills High School, who went 1-2 in their pool play and were ranked seventh coming in. The Barons, ranked 11th, lost a tough matchup that could have seen them advance to the medal side of the bracket, but unfortunately, a 3-1 set loss to put them on the consolation side.
They would meet Foothills Composite in their second playoff, losing 2-1, before meeting Notre Dame in the 11th/12th place game. Notre Dame had not won a match coming into the final, but won a close three-set match, relegating the Barons to 12th place.
“I think they ran out of energy to be able to play,” said Cory Gratton, girls’ head coach. “There had been a lot of highs and lows in this tournament. A lot of close matches, so I just think they were mentally fatigued. But not the result we wanted.”
However, not everything was frowned upon for the girls’ team. The tournament was an experience builder for a young squad that had only two Grade 12 members and four Grade 10 players. Next year, if the team returns, the Barons will have four Grade 12 players returning, along with the four new Grade 11 students.
One player not returning is Amy Oleksyn, who played her final game for the Barons in the Sunday playoff. It was an emotional ending for the volleyball player who was one of the leaders of the team, and will be hard not to play again with the team she grew close with.
“It was great playing with everyone, and I had a great experience,” said Oleksyn. “I had so much fun with the team and this was a fantastic experience.”
The boys’ team will graduate five players and see four Grade 12s next year return. This team has been to provincials before in previous years, and for Canfield, he believes the tournament will help to create interest in volleyball, which is something the program needs in order to grow.
Lloydminster Comprehensive is one of the largest schools in the North Eastern zone of Alberta, but heading to provincials, they instantly become one of the smallest. But Canfield won’t use that as an excuse for the team, but rather hopes the Barons can capitalize off hosting the tournament.
“It just creates more interest in Lloydminster, and gets more kids into it,” said Canfield. “Eventually that will start feeding the middle year schools and eventually the high school, and ultimately, the college.”