If the Vanier Crusaders senior boys volleyball team were from an Alberta school, they would be one of the top teams in the province, says Crusaders head coach Russ Tait.
Proof came at the 38th annual Lindsay Thurber Varsity Volleyball Tournament Friday and Saturday in Red Deer, Alberta.
During the round-robin of the tournament, the Crusaders downed the No. 3 and No. 4 ranked high school teams in all of Alberta on their way to a fourth-place finish.
“Beating Bev Facey and Spruce Grove were really big accomplishments and turned a lot of heads,” said Tait. “People were really impressed with the calibre of play the guys had.”
After taking losses to the hosting Lindsay Thurber school and Red Deer’s Notre Dame, the Crusaders defeated No. 4 ranked Spruce Grove 18-25, 25-20,17-15.
Then, after beating Red Deer’s Hunting Hill in straight sets, the Crusader topped No. 3 ranked Bev Facey High, from Sherwood Park, 12-25, 25-17,15-13.
“Both matches went to three (sets) and it was really good volleyball,” said Tait of playing the No. 3 and 4 teams. “Our guys played really well to win those matches and compete at that level. So I was really proud of how they did.
“Last year, we went to the same tournament and didn’t win a set.
“Right now, if we were in the mix there, we’d be in the top five in the province.”
The Crusaders then ended the round-robin with a fourth win, defeating Sherwood Park’s Salisbury High 25-23,26-24, winning the first set and match-point on big spin serves from Albert Spycher. Over the Crusaders’ seven matches, Spycher led the team in aces with eight, while captain Lowell Tait had four and Mike Hunter three.
“Mason Gray and Albert (Spycher), in my mind, are ready to play at the college level - at a high college level,” said Russ Tait. “That, for me, has always been a goal: to prepare these kids to play after high school if they choose to do that. There’s a half-dozen of them who are at that stage if they want to do that.”
In the match for third place, the Crusaders, who are undefeated in Whitehorse’s senior high school league, couldn’t repeat their previous success, losing 26-24, 25-17 to Spruce Grove.
“Justin Dragoman really was key for us against that last match against Spruce Groove where he was swinging hard against big blocks,” said Tait. “When you’re playing teams with really effective blocking, you have to hit high off the hands and still swing hard and try to score.”
In Red Deer, Spycher led the Crusaders in kills, firing off 51, while Gray produced 43, Dragoman 30, just ahead of Hunter with 29.
Spycher was also on top with blocks, averaging 4.5 per match, while Gray averaged 4.0 and Brian Pronoslo 2.5.
For assists, setter Lowell Tait was way out in front with 179 in Red Deer.
In the digs count, Hunter produced 13, Dragoman 12 and Charlie Kedziora 10.
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