By Greg Price
Vauxhall Queens girls volleyball team were definitely the Davids among the Goliaths at 2A south zone competition last week at Lethbridge College.
The Queens’ slingshot proved to be plenty of forward progress and determination stemming from two straight tournament victories prior to zones.
That focused play continued at zones, as the underdog Queens proved the prognosticators wrong by taking the silver medal and earning a berth into provincials, the seventh straight time the Queens have achieved the feat.
“It is one of those years where you can’t be more proud of what the girls put together, it wasn’t an easy tournament by any stretch of the imagination,” said Scott Reiling, head coach of the Vauxhall Queens girls volleyball team.
“To tell you the truth, we didn’t play well for a lot of the tournament. We were inconsistent and we struggled to put things together. We would give bunches of points away, and it wasn’t from a lack of effort, it just seemed like we couldn’t get any breaks. The ball would hit the tape and roll on our side of the court, every time the ball hit the back line it was against us. It was a grind, but they never quit.”
But where there is a will, there is a way, and the youthful Queens that featured a mere three Grade 12s on a 12-player roster, soldiered on and squeaked out of pool play to give themselves a chance to extend their season.
“We were down to our last couple of points even in round-robin where we were in jeopardy of being out of the tournament and not making the playoffs. The girls kept plugging away, working through it and weathering the storm,” said Reiling.
“We just got through, finishing third in our pool.”
It made for match up against the higher-ranked F.P. Walshe Flyers from Fort Macleod in the quarterfinal, in a battle of two teams with plenty of history together.
“Nothing better than a rivalry to wake everyone up and straighten everyone out. Fort Macleod was a team that finished second when we hosted provincials last year and they had every girl but one back. They had full intentions of not only going to provincials this year, but winning it,” said Reiling, in the 25-23, 25-20 Queens win. “We just got on a roll. You can struggle at times, but at the right time, if you can turn it around, all is forgotten. We are not very big, we were the smallest and youngest team at zones. We got back to what made us win tournaments earlier on. We played really aggressive defence where we were getting touches on every single ball, and we continued to serve tough. When we got opportunities, we weren’t banging them out the back, we were taking aggressive swings, making sure they were staying in the court and giving the opportunity to the other team to make mistakes.”
The tidal wave of Queens energy continued in the semifinal against the south top-ranked Kate Andrews Pride, as the Queens once again won in two straight sets 25-20, 28-26.
“They had beat us earlier on the Thursday,” said Reiling, adding the team managed to battle through injury to Grade 12 setter Dharma Wiest.
“We were down the entire game (for the second set), and it was 24-21 for them. But we ended up not giving them an easy point and ended up winning The girls surprised themselves and they surprised me, I knew we had the potential, but those were some big teams we knocked off.”
The emotional rollercoaster left the Queens spent for the gold-medal final where they fell to the Picture Butte Sugar Queens 16-25, 17-25.
“We just ran out of gas. They did a lot of things well and we panicked. That was a lot of emotional games,” said Reiling.
The Queens now compete in 2A girls provincials in Vegreville, which begin today, and for Reiling and the Queens team, they go in with the afterglow knowing they have already exceeded expectations.
“Did I think we are going to go in there and come away with a banner? I don’t think we are quite there, but it is going to be a great experience for the Grade 10s to get up there and see what that next level is. For my Grade 12s, it sets up a situation where they get to go to provincials for three straight years,” said Reiling, as the Queens will play loosey-goosey with nothing to lose.
“Every time we’ve gone to provincials before the thought was, ‘We got to come home with a medal.’ That’s not our frame of mind this year. We got a tough pool, and that’s what I want. Let’s play those guys and figure out how we have to get to the next level for next year.”