Two Vanier Crusader volleyball teams were in separate Alberta cities for tournaments over the weekend, with one team gathering some wins while the other took in some experience – and perhaps laid foundations for the future.
The Crusader 9/10 girls’ team headed off to Calgary for the Dig Pink Volleyball Tournament, a breast cancer fundraising event, at the Calgary Academy private school.
A level AA and AAA tournament for students Grade 10-12, the 9/10 Crusader girls surprisingly won three straight games on the way to a sixth-place finish out of 16 teams.
Although Crusaders head coach Caroline Holway singled out a few players, such as setter Heather Clarke and hitter Bailey Kuzma, she emphasized the team effort most of all.
“We have a strong 11-player team,” said Holway. “It’s one of those teams where we don’t really have a starting line-up; all 11 can play.
“In the game that we lost, it wasn’t one player. It was a team loss and all the wins were team wins.”
After winning their pool without dropping a set, the Crusaders were ousted from the single-elimination playoff round with a 25-23, 25-12 loss to the Highwood Mustangs from High River, Alberta.
“Their strength as a team is the energy, work ethic and the positive attitude they bring to the court regardless of who is on,” said Holway. “Our passing was good and we had 29 serves that could not be returned by the opponents. The setters both played well and on defense the girls went after everything. We were proud of the way the girls represented not only Vanier Catholic Secondary School but in a broader sense, the way they represented the Yukon.”
The Crusader senior boys’ team (Grade 11/12), competing at the Lindsey Thurber Invitational at Lindsey Thurber High School in Red Deer, may have bitten off more than they could chew. But that was the intention.
“It did exactly what we were hoping to do, which was to go down and see how we stacked up against the best competition,” said Crusaders head coach Russ Tait. “We know we have one more year to get better.”
The Crusaders had a few disadvantages to deal with in Red Deer. On top of being a team from a AA school, playing in a AAAA (schools with student bodies between roughly 1,000-2,000) tournament, seven of the top 10 teams in Alberta were present.
“It was a good education, that’s for sure,” said Tait. “We didn’t win any matches, but there were ones that were 25-23, 25-22, so we were right there with them.
“The senior varsity teams down there, there’s rarely a Grade 11 on them, so me with my Grade 11s, it was a good challenge.”
Although the Crusaders failed to capture a win, they did catch the attention of some post-secondary representatives.
“What I’m always trying to do with these kids is give them the opportunity to get to the next level, if they would like to,” said Tait. “So that means having coaches from those colleges and universities to be able to see them and to get the kids exposed to that caliber of play.
“Michael Hunter played really well and the Red Deer coaches have had their eye on him since Grade 9. (Captain) Henry Kedziora (the Crusaders’ only Grade 12 player) had the athletic director from Augustana talking to him about his possibilities next year.”
Contact Tom Patrick at