By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
For the first time in 12 years, the Spartans Annual Volleyball tournament title got to stay put.
Despite playing in front of their own full gym, the Strathmore High School Spartans senior girls volleyball team came out flat in the final against the Springbank Community High School Phoenix Nov. 4.
For whatever reason, the Spartans didn’t have it. They weren’t passing well, and they couldn’t block at the net, as they dropped the opening set 16-25.
They trailed 11-10 in the second set when the turning point of the tournament took place. Both teams were diving, digging out balls, as the ball crossed the net six times before finally landing on the Phoenix side.
“It was amazing. The final completely turned on that one point. We got this sudden burst of energy – a new spark – and turned into a different team. We started blocking everything at the net and our passes were going where they needed to go,” said Spartans Head Coach Randy Moncks. “That, and Springbank started making a lot of mistakes that helped us get back into the match.”
The Spartans went on to win the second set 25-20, grabbing momentum heading into the crucial third set.
From there, the rest was easy. The Spartans dropped a couple aces and were playing with this renewed energy and the Phoenix couldn’t get out of their own way.
“It was lots of fun to witness the turnaround in our girls. This win was a long time coming and it feels great,” said Moncks, who first started coaching the senior girls back in 2010.
The first set in the finals was the only set of the tourney the hosts lost. They earned a spot in the finale by sweeping the Canmore Collegiate High School Crusaders 2-0 (25-21, 25-23). In the quarters, they breezed past their cross-town competition 2-0, when they swept the Holy Cross Collegiate Hawks 25-16, 25-15.
“We played a lot more of our reserves this tournament and were very impressed by how well they performed,” said Moncks. “It gives me a lot of confidence knowing how deep of a team we have.”
The Spartans rolled through the round robin tournament undefeated by sweeping the Brooks Composite High School Buffaloes 2-0 (25-18, 25-22), disposing of the Highwood High Scholl Mustangs 2-0 (25-9, 25-21) and brushing aside the Wheatland Crossing Coyotes 2-0 (25-11, 25-11).
The competition field was smaller than usual, as harsh winter conditions forced four teams to drop out of the tournament at the last moment.
It marked the second tournament title for the Spartans this season and shows that the team is peaking at the right time with the South Central Zone tournament right around the corner. This weekend, the Spartans are not in competition, as they practiced in preparation for zones, which kick off Nov. 17 in Canmore.
Boys make final
On the boys side, the Spartans were looking to repeat as tournament champions.
In the final, they reached a third set against the Springbank Community High School Phoenix, but ran out of gas, falling 2-1 on home court.
“We had a couple guys coming back from injury who were trying to get reincorporated into our offence, and that took a little time to get back into things and that’s something we will continue to work on,” said Spartans Head Coach Cole Hintz.
In the semis, the Spartans squeaked past the Canmore Collegiate High School Crusaders 2-1.
“We were fine tuning things this weekend,” said Hintz. “We would have liked to win it all, but we are still happy with how we finished, and we are getting pretty confident with our play making.”
The boys bracket was also affected by the weather, as three teams were unable to attend because of the winter storm that ripped through town.
The shortened field meant the Spartans wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the round robin and a bye into the semis after sweeping the Brooks Composite High School Buffaloes 2-0 (26-16, 25-14), and took care of the Cochrane High School Cobras in two thrilling sets, 25-24 and 25-23.
Like the girls team, the boys will enjoy a bye week as the 1A and 2A regional tournaments wrap up. The Spartans will take part in the South Central Zone tournament Nov. 17 at George McDougall High School in Airdrie.