The Lindsay Thurber Raiders senior girls and boys volleyball teams are looking to build off their successful seasons last year.
The girls are coming off a 4A ASAA provincial volleyball title and the boys are starting a fresh start with a new coach.
Raiders senior girls head coach Kirsten DeZutter said they’re excited for the year and have had a great start so far.
In the last couple of weeks before their first conference game, this week they picked up right where they left off and won gold in the University of Alberta tournament and in the Red Deer Polytechnic tournament.
“Central Alberta is very strong though because in both tournaments we played Hunting Hills in the final and then Notre Dame has been right in the top in all of those tournaments as well,” DeZutter said.
“We know that we’re going to have to push really hard and work really hard to improve. We are going to have to be sharp basically the whole year in order to make sure we do our best in central Alberta and try to earn a birth heading down the line towards provincials.”
Returning from last year’s championship squad are seven players. five of them are now Grade 12 students. Those include Nadia McKeage, Marin Walton, Jordyn Rudolph, Madelyn DeZutter, and Hanna Mateika.
The senior girls are hoping their experience will help them this season but have a solid group of young athletes who have experience in junior and club under their belts.
“We’re really excited for the whole group, the young ones, and the new additions to our team are very talented,” she added.
Their expectations are to be competitive once again on a provincial level but expect zone 4A to be a tough zone to win this season.
Lindsay Thurber hosted provincials and won it all on home court which she said is an experience they won’t soon forget.
“It was really exciting and really awesome. We know along with that sometimes teams will always then play their best against you so we know we have to be strong, sharp, and on our game every time we hit the floor,” DeZutter said.
On the boy’s side, they’re led by new head coach Travis Czainski who said they have a young team this year. They only have two returning players from the senior team last season, but he expects his team to be competitive.
“Our goal is definitely just to win the league and get that first berth into provincials. Once we accomplish that, we’ll reevaluate and set a goal for provincials, but I definitely expect us to be competitive within the league. There was a big turnover from last year to this year as far as Grade 12s who left the league,” Czainski said.
In addition to the two returning seniors, they recruited three other Grade 12s to join the team with the rest of the squad in Grade 11.
Czainski coached in the junior varsity league last season and moving up into the senior league he brought seven of his players with him to the squad, which he said is nice for team familiarity. Avery Laforce, Ahhmar Mustafa, Cale Driedger, Sam Bender, and Karson McDonald are in Grade 12 followed by James Arthur, Kai Klass, James Cho, Ayden Cook, Noah Nakonechny, Owen House, and Jamie Debruijn in Grade 11.
He explained it’s important for his team to focus on beating teams through ball control, and play a scrappy-type game because he doesn’t expect them to overpower anyone.
The senior boy’s played their first league game against Lacombe on Wednesday and will next play Hunting Hills Lightning on Sept. 28 at home.