Heading into nationals, ranked sixth in the province, the girls of the Central Rage Volleyball Club team, comprising players from Ponoka, Red Deer and Bashaw among other communities, finished the aggressive tournament with newly earned gold medals shining around their necks.
On the weekend of May 9 to 11, the U17 team headed to Edmonton to take on the top teams of Division 1.
“Our first pool play was tough, having our starting left-side Danya Brachmann and middle, Zoe Cire out with injuries. We lost every game in two,” said head coach Joely Churchill.
Brachmann was able to return to the games after her injury was taken care of, but Cire remained incapacitated for the entirety of the weekend because of an ankle injury.
During the second day of nationals the team didn’t fare much better and the girls placed fourth in their pool.
The final day of the tournament was a turnaround and the Rage was ready to fight for the gold. The morning game against WaLa Xtreme out of Saskatchewan was won, as was the semi-finals against the Jr. Huskies club out of Saskatoon.
Entering the gold medal match, Churchill says the girls already knew their opponent, Waldheim United, the top ranked team in Saskatchewan and 25th overall in the country, as they played in the same pool as Rage during the first day.
Going to three sets, Central Rage won 15-10. “The girls worked hard and earned every bit of the gold. They played as a team and kept positive attitudes throughout the day. Most importantly, they played with heart, not letting one ball hit the floor,” said Churchill.
The team’s road to nationals was a long one — as tryouts were held in December — filled with hard work and multiple other tournaments. Three were Alberta volleyball premiers and the fourth was a side tournament held in Caroline, in which the team took silver.
During the first premier tournament, the girls placed sixth out of a total of 36 teams.
“We were then combined north/south after the results of the first premier. We placed 14th in Division 1 out of a total of 64 Teams, including Divisions 2, 3 and 4,” said Churchill, referring to the second premier tournament.
Because Rage was one of only three remaining Division 1 teams after the second premier tournament, they were brought down to Division 2.
The third premier tournament was held at the end of March, in which the girls lost the crossover game against the U18 team, won every game in the consolation division and took the consolation medal.
The team’s provincials took place at the end of April in Edmonton. “We had a heavy team discussion about starting a fire on this weekend. We were adding more fuel at practices and the team goal was to light the match at provincials,” said Churchill.
“We beat everyone in our pool to claim the first spot,” she added.
The quarterfinals opened with Rage against the U17 Dino’s club, who had won every premier tournament. Despite giving the “token winners” of provincials a run for their money Rage lost to them and also the following game to the Grand Prairie wolves. “We had expended a lot of energy in the previous game, and ended up playing the U17 Queen’s again for 7th place,” explained Churchill.
Central Rage Volleyball Club team — which is in its third year of existence — saw players from Ponoka, Red Deer, Bashaw, Bawlf and Wetaskiwin come together this year in the fight for gold.
Churchill says onlookers would not have been able to tell the girls came from a variety of communities for how well they worked together.
“As coaches, we could not be more proud of how we have grown over the past four months. If there was any time for this team to have blossomed, they definitely have chosen the right time. Provincials showcased our true level of heart and skill,” said Churchill.