Deep Spartans nail down provincial podium

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It pays to be 12 players deep in volleyball – just ask the provincial bronze medallists.

The Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans used every inch of their depth to climb to their first ever provincial podium in boys volleyball at the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association 2A Championships Saturday in Taber.

“I have 12 players and everybody has a starting role,” said Spartans coach Dale Roth. “If they didn’t start in set one, they started in set two. That was significant because when you have matches that go 32-30 when they normally go to 25, the next match you can put in fresh legs and that gives you an edge to come out and fight again.”

That would prove crucial in a tournament that more often than not went into overtime.

The Spartans got into the 30s in a narrow two-set loss (30-32, 20-25) to the eventual champion Immanuel Christian.

STS finished 3-2 in pool play, picking up victories over Our Lady of Mount Pleasant, the host St. Mary’s and Rundle College. Only the latter match did not go beyond normal scoring.

“This was one of the most competitive tournaments I personally have ever been in,” said Spartans right side Jeremy Pierce-Lord. “The top four teams, I would consider basically equal. It could have gone any way between the four. It really just depended on who played the best in each set.”

The playoff round saw the Spartans make quick work over Parkland Comp in a two-set match followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Calgary’s West Island College.

STS went on to beat La Crete in three sets to add to an already historic finish.

“We came from a really close loss against WIC and that was kind of crushing,” said Grade 12 power Lucas Crichton. “At the same time we made STS history by being the first team to make it to the semifinal match. We came into that (bronze game) happy that we had already got to where we did.

“All we wanted there was to go out and end our season on a great note, getting a provincial medal was our goal and we did it.”

For 10 members of the veteran-laden squad it was a heck of a way to wrap up their high school volleyball careers.

“The mindset for Aadam (Nanji) and I, the other Grade 11, was really just to have as much fun as we could and make the experience amazing for all the Grade 12s,” said Pierce-Lord. “It wasn’t we’re going to go out there and winning is all that matters, our mindset was that the team is what matters and every single player matters. The fact we all played in the bronze medal match is really significant.”

Roth credited the selfless play of everyone on the roster and gave libero Kyle Webster and setters Nanji and Nico Belanger kudos for standout performances. Nanji picked up the sportsmanship pin for his decorum all tournament.

“Everyone on our team brings so much, not just on the court,” Crichton said.

“We’re one big, happy family, everyone loves each other and likes spending time with each other.

“Yeah, we made history and that’s amazing, but I’m more happy that I got to spend so much time with such a great group of guys.”

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