After entering the 2A provincials as one of the favourites, the Queens came awfully close to their crowning glory.
Ponoka’s St. Augustine Queens senior girls volleyball team wound up finishing fourth at the provincial championship held in Camrose last week, alongside the boys tournament where the St. Augustine Kings came in as a wildcard. That made history for the schools, marking the first time both teams played in the championship in the same year.
“I’m pretty ecstatic with the fourth place finish and how the girls played the entire weekend. We were one set from making it to the final, which would have blown my mind,” stated coach Darren Josephison.
“We were going into the tournament not taking anything for granted and being somewhat cautious, despite many people saying our team could do some damage as one of the top six teams in the province.”
He was pleased to see the girls jump up into that mix of top teams and just how valuable the experience will be for his youthful team — which featured just two players each from Grade 11 and 12 on the roster.
“I’ve heard from many that with such a young team and how they performed, the team should be back next year and battling for that gold medal. However, there are no guarantees,” he said.
“Especially playing the quarterfinal in a small gym against the host team, it’s likely something none of these girls will ever experience again. It was packed, such a mad house and so loud with the kind of intensity you’d see at a big basketball or hockey game.”
Josephison also felt the support they received from parents and others through email, texts, Facebook plus those watching the live streamed matches online proved extremely inspirational for the girls.
The Queens were placed in what proved to be the tougher of the two six-team pools and opened up the event Nov. 22 with victories over Notre Dame from Bonnyville (25-18, 25-18) and Sexsmith (25-18, 25-13). The team fell to the top ranked team — and eventual provincial champs — from Vauxhall the next day and rebounded to beat Edmonton’s Millwoods Christian 25-9, 25-16. The Queen’s closed out the round robin with a 27-25, 25-22 loss to Okotoks’ Strathcona-Tweedsmuir, leaving them in a three way tie for second.
However, Ponoka avoided the one-set tie-breaker game by having a better point differential, which provided the opportunity for some redemption as they played the host Our Lady of Mount Pleasent (OLMP) in the quarterfinals — taking the match 25-23, 25-18.
That meant a date in the semi-final against the second ranked team in Alberta, Calgary’s Rundle College, and the Queens put up a battle winning the first set 25-22. Unfortunately, that’s where the girls ran into a wall, losing the next set 25-13 and the deciding set 15-5.
Peace River was their opposition for the bronze medal match and Ponoka tried to put up a fight, but fell 25-15, 25-14.
Kings not wild
Over on the boys side, it was a rough road for the Kings senior squad which entered the provincial championship as one of the wildcard entries — after finishing third in the central zone.
Coach Justin Florean knew it wasn’t going to be an easy tournament, but no one expected the club to win just one set during the provincial championship.
The Kings opening match against Calgary Christian was close at 25-16, 25-16 and followed that up the same day (Nov. 22) with a great showing against Elk Point’s FG Miller, falling the first set 25-12 then winning the second 25-21 only to lose the deciding third set 15-8.
The team’s next to matches were more competitive — falling to OLMP 25-15, 25-23, to Lethbridge’s Immanuel Christian 25-20, 25-16; before getting beaten 25-7, 25-11 by Strathcona-Tweedsmuir from Okotoks.
*Note — the original version has been corrected to include missing information.