Renegades have Spartans number
Volleyball: Spirit River ends Strathcona-Tweedsmuirs girls season for third consecutive year
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 10:38 am
Don’t be surprised if members of the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans girls volleyball team wince when you say the words “Spirit River Renegades.”
The Spirit River Renegades defeated Spartans in the 2A provincial final 25-14, 25-20 Friday in Edmonton.
It was the third consecutive year the Rebels ended the Spartans’ season. Last year, they downed Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS) in the bronze medal game and in 2011 it was the final.
The Renegades depend on solid defence and the hitting of power Taylor Pelland, said Renegades coach Derek Peddle.
“She was our main offensive weapon but we had to slow down STS’s big middle (Ciara Hanly),” Peddle said. “We wanted to make sure our middle stayed with her and if we could slow her down, we thought we had a good chance of beating them.”
The Spartans battled some early final jitters in the first set losing a 25-14 decision.
“When we went into the first set, we were ready to go and Spirit River came out with a great server right from the get-go and that caught us off guard,” said Spartans coach Andrea Weber. “We had trouble generating some offence because our passing just wasn’t there... In the second set we came up much stronger.”
Weber said the Spartans had trouble stopping the heavy hitting of Pelland as well.
“She was just a very strong hitter and our defence struggled against her,” Weber said. “But I’m pleased with how we did. I know our girls left everything on the court… and being second in the province, is nothing to be upset about.”
Hanly said the Renegades were able to stop her early in the match.
“I did have trouble at the start, but I thought (setter) Kenzie Walker and I were able to figure it out,” Hanly said.
The Spartans finished second in their pool with a 4-1 record. Their lone loss coming to the highly touted Vauxhall Queens (25-11, 25-12). They defeated Mayerthorpe, Sexsmith, Notre Dame out of Bonnyville and most importantly, a nemesis in the Rundle College Cobras.
“Rundle and STS have always had a bit of a battle,” Weber said. “We lost to them in the Western Independent schools tournament in the bronze medal match and at the Foothills Comp tournament. The girls have been hungry to beat them ever since… I told them after the Foothills tournament, we will see them (Rundle) in the provincials and we will beat them when it matters the most… and we did.”
Following round-robin play, the Spartans beat Magrath in the quarterfinal in three games.
“We had an incredible game in the final set,” Weber said. “It was do or die. We had incredible digging from libero Sara Taylor. Both Ciara Hanly and Michaela Ostlund were hitting stronger than I saw them hit all year long — and that’s because Kenzie Walker was setting perfectly.”
They then went on to sweep the Vegreville Cougars in the semifinal to set up the annual rematch against Spirit River.
It turned out to be the third straight year Spartans captain Kenzie Walker’s high school season ended with a loss to Spirit River.
“I have had to play them at every single provincial in my career,” Walker said. “I was happy that the team we did lose to was them, I have a lot of respect for them.”
She said she was proud of how her team rebounded after struggling at times during the season.
“I didn’t expect to have a second-place finish at provincials,” she said. “It was a great way to end my career.”
The Renegades and Strathcona-Tweedsmuir also met in the provincial final in 2010 and 2009, with STS winning in 2010.
In other girls’ volleyball action, the Holy Trinity Academy Knights made their first trip to the 3A provincials finishing with a 1-4 record and did not advance to the playoff round. Their lone victory was against Lacombe Composite.