One of the deeper zones in recent memory for head coach Scott Reiling, that observation proved itself in the Queens’ eventual 20-25, 25-17, 15-10 win over Magrath Pandas in the zone championship final.
“There were a lot of tough, tight games. Not necessarily on our side where we seemed to execute quite well up until the semis where teams pushed us a little,” said Reiling. “But in pool play, it played out the way I think the way the seeding eventually was. It worked out the way it was supposed to work out, but those teams had to work hard where you weren’t just going in there and bulldozing all the teams.”
Reiling admitted the enormity of the team’s accomplishments these past few seasons caught up with the Queens in the playoff round with some match jitters.
“We executed really, really well and then we got a little tight in the semis and the final. It’s the first time I could see the weight of the season was weighing on their shoulders a little bit,” said Reiling. “It wasn’t from a lack of effort or that we were having a bad day, it was more ‘holy smokes, we can’t lose this or the season will be a disaster’.”
That is the price you pay for elevated expectations among senior class players that have made the provincial dance every year with the team and coming off the dominating tournament run in which the Queens have lost only one match.
“For those senior girls it was a big deal and I could see where the pressure was. They went to provincials in Grade 10 and we medaled, they went to provincials in Grade 11 and they medaled. And now in Grade 12, they are the ones that have to dictate it. They are the leaders and if we didn’t make it, it can be seen as a failure and I think it’s crazy to think that,” said Reiling. “We are 62-1 on the season where we won 10 or 11 tournaments, but you could see that pressure seeing some of our leaders look up at the clock and take those deep sighs. You just had to keep encouraging, noting we weren’t doing things bad and just bump-set-hit.”
The weight of the team’s own excellence surfaced in the championship match where the Queens fell behind big against the Magrath Pandas, but the Queens dug down deep and turned the match around to earn another banner. “Magrath jumped all over us that first set where they could do nothing wrong, It wasn’t that we weren’t playing well, it was just they were executing better where at one pit of the game it was 17-7,” said Reiling. “At that point we used both of our time-outs, we took a deep breath and we clawed back and from that point on it turned the tide. Full credit for the girls battling back. At times it isn’t anything you are doing, we were doing really good things. Anytime we put a really good swing in they had a blocker in the right place, on their hits they hit a lot of white tape that rolled over. Little things that you can’t predict in sport where you just have to hope you can ride it out.”
The Queens now make the trip to Edmonton for 2A provincials Nov. 28-30 in which the 50th anniversary is being celebrated where all 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A categories will be competing at Saville Centre.
“There will be close to 100 teams up there, it’s going to be crazy,” said Reiling.
Expectations will be kept simple for provincials for the battle-tested Queens where there will likely be no easy matches. Not all teams have registered for provincials, but of those that have in the Queens, Strathcona Tweedsmuir and Spirit River, they are the three programs that have taken all the medals each time in the last three provincials.
“The who’s who didn’t fall short in their respective zone,” said Reiling. “At provincials, most teams are very good calibre. If you are going up there looking for easy games, you are probably the easy game.”
Regardless of the outcome, Reiling added this is a Queens team he is very proud of.
“I would take these guys into battle any day over a lot of the teams I’ve seen because they are proven. There were times we were tight (at zones) where we were afraid to lose, but they still found a way to win and good teams do that,” said Reiling. “That is one of our strengths where we are not relying on one or two players. We got a pretty darn good team where my hope is if one or two players get tight, the other ones can step up and do their job a little better until those other players and work their way out of their funk.”