If the first game of the 2019 season is any indication, the Springbank Phoenix senior volleyball teams are ready to contend for the Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) championship.
After three weeks of tryouts, practices and preseason tournaments, the Phoenix senior boys’ and girls’ teams travelled to Airdrie Sept. 18 to open the season against the George McDougall Mustangs. Both Springbank teams came out on top, with the girls’ team winning in four sets and the boys’ team securing the sweep.
“My first-stringers played really well,” said Al Coulter, head coach of the girls’ team. “They showed what kind of team we’re going to be this year, so I was pleased with that.
“Our second-stringers, I love working them in so they’re ready when we go deep in tournaments. They were a little nervous today, so that was the third set loss.”
The first set was clearly one-sided, as Springbank overcame George McDougall 25-8. The home team improved in the second, but still fell to the visitors 25-17.
“I think the first few sets were definitely our strongest,” said Sarah Zonneveld, the Phoenix’s Grade-11 setter.
George McDougall’s best play came in the third. The home team went point-for-point with Springbank throughout the frame, ultimately taking it 25-23 after a lengthy final rally that brought a huge roar from the crowd.
But Springbank ended any chance of a Mustangs comeback with another dominant showing in the fourth, taking the set 25-10.
“Our third set wasn’t as good as we can play, but we brought it back in the fourth and finished off the game,” Zonneveld said.
Springbank’s senior boys’ team played the Mustangs immediately after the girls’ game, and swept the Airdrie side in three sets.
“All three were pretty close,” said head coach Daniel Kleer. “We were down 19-15 in the third set and came back.”
According to Kleer, the Phoenix’s pin-point serving was what propelled the team to victory.
“The serving is there and the attacking is there, but the passing needs a lot of work,” he said.
Both of Springbank’s senior volleyball teams finished second to the Cochrane Cobras in the RVSA last year, while also putting forward competitive showings in the South Central Zones tournament.
With plenty of carry-over from last year’s roster, Coulter said he expects the senior girls’ team to compete for the division title this year, as well as a shot at provincials. He said some of the team’s key players will be Zonneveld, middle Kyla Raessler, and Coulter’s daughter, Grace, the team’s starting outside hitter.
“We have nine girls from the team last year, and all our starters are back,” he said. “We also ended up getting two really good girls from our junior team, so we should be stronger this year.”
Despite the boys’ team boasting just nine players – three Grade 12s and six Grade 11s – Kleer is similarly optimistic about the Phoenix’s competitiveness this season.
“I saw Cochrane at the UofC tournament this weekend, and I think we can compete with them,” he said. “I haven’t seen what Croxford or Bert Church look like this year, but I think we have a really good team.”
The Phoenix’s senior girls’ team has a bye in Week 2, meaning the team will not play its next league game until Oct. 2, when it travels to Cochrane to take on the Bow Valley Bobcats. The team’s home opener will be Oct. 9 against the W.H. Croxford Cavaliers.
The senior boys’ team, meanwhile, will get two weeks of rest from action and will not return to the court until the Oct. 9 match-up with the Cavaliers.
For a full schedule of RVSA games this season, visit bit.ly/2mj60bV