With two power hitters firing on all pistons and some extra attention paid to avoiding unforced errors, the Vanier Crusaders senior girls team took a win and made the quarterfinal at the 38th annual Lindsay Thurber Varsity Volleyball Tournament on Saturday in Red Deer, Alberta.
The Crusaders went 1-4 in the tournament to finish in a tie for fifth out of nine teams.
“I used to play for UBC and also the junior national team, and it was always pounded into me that volleyball is a game of errors,” said Crusaders head coach Kelly Bukowski. “You make less errors and you’re going to win – it’s a easy as that.
“So we stopped with the silly service errors. If it meant giving them easy serve, then so be it – make them earn it. With hitting, if something was wrong, don’t pound it; just get it into the court.”
The Crusaders opened the tournament with straight-set losses to Red Deer’s Lindsay Thurber Secondary and Sherwood Park’s Salisbury Composite High School on Friday.
“The very first match – the girls admitted they were really, really nervous because of the calibre of volleyball,” said Bukowski. “But then we played the host and these guys are ranked high in 4A volleyball and we kind of stayed with them.”
After a third loss to Calgary’s Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School, the Crusaders squeaked into the quarterfinals with a 25-23, 25-22 win over Sylvan Lake’s Cody High School on Saturday.
Helping put the Crusaders on top were power hitters Erica New and Kelsey Smeeton.
“Erica New, she’s an amazing passer,” said Bukowski. “She even practised with the Red Deer College team on Thursday night – that’s how good she is. And we had her passing as much as possible. Finally, I called a meeting and said, ‘I want Erica touching 99 per cent of the balls.’ And she just really shined.
“Our other power hitter, Kelsey Smeeton, was actually off side, but she’s so consistent that we put her opposite to Erica. As it turned out, the few balls Erica didn’t get her hands on, Kelsey was right there and she’s such an excellent passer.”
In the win, the Crusaders maintained an early lead throughout the first set and came back from down 22-18 in the second.
“It was fun to come back,” said Bukowski.
In the quarterfinal the Crusaders were ousted with a 25-15, 25-9 loss to Sherwood Park’s Bev Facey Community High.
“The last set of that match wasn’t very good, but overall it was a positive experience. The girls learned a lot, they had fun, and you always try to play a category up, so I think this was a good move,” said Bukowski.
“The ball was very good and we were exposed to some top-flight competition. Erica New and Kelsey Smeeton had very strong tournaments, especially their passing and ball control while hitting. (Our two middles) Tatum Koser and Bailey Kuzma played well also. And, as always, our setter (and captain) Robyn Fortune was great.”
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