A local girls’ volleyball team stepped up its play to win Division 2 Gold at Nationals, despite not competing at capacity earlier in the tournament.
South-West Central Wildfire, a U-16 club team based in Stettler, managed to, “Centre its focus at just the right time,” says Coach Don Seale.
“The girls stopped being afraid they might lose, and locked into playing at a level they knew they were capable of. We made the mental adjustments, and hit our full stride in the playoffs.”
At the outset, Volleyball Canada divided the 144 teams entered in Nationals into four Divisions, and tournaments for the top two were held in Regina, Saskatchewan, May 18th-20th.
After Round Robin action, the 32 teams in Division 2 were placed in tiers for the playoffs.
Wildfire began its run with a quarterfinal win (25-21, 25-22) over Axe Volleyball Black out of Nova Scotia.
A convincing victory in the semi-finals followed against Apex Elevate from Calgary (25-14, 25-18).
“We began playing our best ball of the season in the semis. I knew that the team we’d meet in the finals would have to play extremely well to run with us,” says Seale.
￼￼”The locals met Synergy from Newfoundland in the finals, and pulled off a close win in the first set (25-23). The skill-sets and confidence of the Synergy players began to show in Set two, and Wildfire was soundly beaten (16-25).
“Nothing went right in that set; we got blasted. Still, the girls weren’t discouraged, and we ran our best attacks of the day in Set three,” says Matthew Blouin, assistant coach.
Wildfire began to pull away early in the final set.
The clinching moment came when they ran a tandem attack midpoint in the game. In a tandem, the middle attacker jumps for a quick attack, while the left-side hitter attacks from behind and just after.
It takes significant skill, and is difficult to block when done right.
“The opposing middle was totally unprepared for this play; she just stood there dumbfounded. That seemed to break their spirits, and we cruised home (15-9). Our play-off run marked a tremendous turnaround, and the girls were well-deserving of the win,” says Seale.