Fine individual and collective play by the South-West Central Wildfire U16 girls volleyball team resulted in a gold medal at the nationals volleyball tournament last week.
Rachel Seale, serving in her first year as head coach of the local club team, successfully led her U16 team to a nationals championship despite challenges. The Division 5 team played nine matches, winning the last four in succession in the three-day event at the Expo Centre, Edmonton, May 22 to 24.
“I was proud of the girls’ high level of play, especially when considering the many city teams we came up against,” said Seale. “Those teams had large rosters to choose their starting lineups from, whereas we had an injured player and were down to eight.”
Wildfire qualified for the playoffs in Monday’s Power Pool Round with a straight-set victory over Cougar Black Mikayla, a team from Victoria, B.C. (25-21, 25-21). This was followed by another straight-set victory in the Quarterfinals against an Alberta team, the North Western Volleyball Wolves (25-23, 25-23).
Seale’s team struggled in the second set of its semifinal match against Cougar B.M. from Maple Ridge, B.C.
“We really dominated the first set (25-13), but lost a close one in the second (23-25). I was impressed with how well we executed under pressure in the rubber match (15-11). We got the lead early, and held it to the end,” said Seale.
In the finals, Wildfire won two straight sets against Ace of Diamonds from the Frazer Valley, B.C. (25-21, 25-19).
“Those girls scared us as we watched them warm up,” said Seale. “They were stacked with quick athletes, and had a really tall girl playing middle. We managed to block her twice in the first set, and that took the edge off their play.
“I was especially impressed with how well my girls played as a unit throughout the tourney. As a whole, we covered the court well, hit hard, and served accurately. The wins didn’t come easily, but they did come.”