Spartans setting up for another run
Volleyball: Comp, Knights, Strathmore to battle STS for title
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 06:00 am
There are plenty of new looks among the four Okotoks area schools in the senior girls volleyball circuit.
One thing remains the same — the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans (STS) appear to be the team to beat in the Foothills Athletic Council (FAC).
“We would certainly like to beat STS, but a lot of teams have said that,” said Oilfields Drillers coach Kevin Wilson. “They run a really great program.”
The Spartans have three players returning from last year’s FAC championship team. They also won a provincial championship in 2011.
“Our strengths are our setting and our middle blockers where we have retained Ciara Hanly, — she is our six-foot-three middle blocker,” said STS head coach Andrea Weber.
Michaela Ostlund is a three-year veteran who will hit from the outside.
Also returning is setter Mckenzie Walker, who saw some action setting behind now University of Alberta’s Annie Abbott on the provincial championship team of 2011.
“Those are our three-year veterans and they as a trio are bringing a lot of strength and stability to our team,” Weber said.
She said the remaining members of the team provide flexibility to the line-up.
“Our two-year and new players are all very versatile and we have been able to move people around from outside hitting to right side, from right side to setter,” Weber said. “It gives us a lot of options.”
Teaghan Stack will play right side and Sara Taylor can play outside hitter, but will see a lot of action as libero.
The Spartans have won five of the last six FAC championships, losing to the Foothills Falcons in the 2011 final.
“The first goal we set is to try and win league and then qualify through zones to get to provincials,” Weber said. “The girls and I both recognize that Foothills Comp, Strathmore and some other teams are very strong.
“We don’t consider it a right of passage.”
STS defeated Holy Cross Collegiate in straight sets last week.
The Foothills Falcons are a work in progress as coach Jenilee Delday Hemsing puts together the pieces.
Foothills started its FAC season with a 3-1 victory over the Highwood Mustangs on Sept. 18.
The Falcons have added Grade 12 Kaleigh Fisk, formerly from Bert Church High School in Airdrie, in the middle, but she will likely move to power after she recovers from shoulder surgery.
They also had added Danielle Tanner, who will play middle.
One of the team leaders is co-captain Karina Richichi, who is playing power.
“Defensively, she is phenomenal,” Delday Hemsing said. “So as the bigger hitters get going, she might move to libero, but right now she is power.”
The Falcons lost their all-star setter Haley Jensen to graduation, but Foothills should be in good hands with co-captain Jenna Thomson, who was the Grade 11 athlete of the year, setting the ball.
Thomson played libero much of last year.
“She is a hard worker and a good athlete,” Delday Hemsing said. “We just changed her set a little, so give her some time and she will be just fine.”
Kalli Turbach will provide offence and defence in the middle.
Supplying some of the hitting power for the Falcons will be Leslie Hall and Brielle Reidlinger who will play right side and power respectively. Jordan Meyer is also at power.
Grade 10 student Ally Bymak is adjusting from Junior high to high school ball. The Heritage Heights School alumnus will likely see plenty of action.
The other Falcons include Kennedy Patterson at middle and Kelsey Olsand at libero, who will also set.
Rachel McInnes is playing right-side and will also set.
The Holy Trinity Academy Knights are hoping to take the next step after reaching the Foothills Athletic Council semifinals last year.
They got off to a good start by downing the County Central Hawks in three straight sets Sept. 18.
The team’s new coach said while the Knights hit and dug well, it was the leadership she saw on the court that most impressed her.
“We have some strong leadership skills on our team and we work together as a team,” said Knights coach Crystal Anderson.
“If one of the girls made a mistake, we rallied around her.”
However, it takes more than leadership to win in volleyball. The Knights can also hit.
“Our hitting is definitely one of our strengths,” Anderson said. “All our girls can hit, but Ari Benwell, Maddie Uchytil and Jill Lazic are our three biggest hitters.”
The Knights are using a 5-1 offensive system. Their main setter is Abigail Hartman. Sadie Ozimko and Jocelyn Byl will also takes turns at setting for the Knights’ big hitters.
HTA not only can give a hit, they can also receive.
“We have some great receivers who can dig the ball out,” Anderson said.
HTA’s defensive specialist is Megan Kowalenko at libero.
The Oilfields Drillers are more than just young at heart. They also have talent.
“We’re good, were raw and big in the middle,” head coach Kevin Wilson said. “There is a big youth movement with us this year.”
The Drillers have lost two key players to graduation, their setter and captain Abi Glaicar and Whitney Beamer, their big hitter from last year’s team, which went to the semifinals in the FAC.
“We are going with two great setters, Nicola Logan and Kamela Knight,” Wilson said. “They love to compete.”
The Drillers’ offence will be big in the middle with returners Kalene Lillico and Jana Tymstra.
They were so powerful at middle they shifted Kalee Rider to power.
Grade 10 student Zoe Stromberg is also at power. Mykala Hart is a power, who can be used all over the court.
Ashlyn Kirk is returning from a knee injury to provide some offence at power.
Wilson at least wants to repeat the team’ success of a year ago.
“The girls work hard, get to a lot of balls and we have a very athletic team,” he said.
“We won bronze at zones and we won a bronze in league. I would like to at least repeat that. We have the talent.”
The Drillers opening match in the FAC, a three-straight set loss to the Strathmore Spartans, may not be an indication of how good Oilfields will be in the future.
FAC play resumes tonight (Sept. 25) with HTA Knights going to Strathmore to take on Holy Cross Collegiate. The Foothills Falcons and the Oilfields Drillers square off in Black Diamond at 7 p.m.
The premier game will be a rematch of last year’s final with a battle of the Spartans, when Strathmore travels to STS for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
For more information go to www.foothillsathletics.ca