Coming away with any medal after being placed among the top 32 teams in the country is a great measure of success.
For the Ponoka-based Central Rage 16U girls volleyball club, walking away with a tier IV silver medal after playing in the top division at the Volleyball Canada Nationals May 18 to 20 showed just how far they have come.
“We expected extremely high levels of competition,” said head coach Tammy Emes.
“Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec always have amazing teams. We thought the girls played so well and really held their own against teams that have a reputation for being the best in the country. The girls had fun and worked hard and we couldn’t have asked for any more from them.”
In the preliminary round on May 18, the Rage fell in straight sets to both the Calgary Canuck Red and to Defensa Purple from Welland, Ont. before being edged out in three sets by the East Central Thunder from Fort Qu’Appelle, Sk.
The next round on May 19 pitted the Rage against teams from three of the other pools that weren’t able to win a match on opening day. The local girls got off to a strong start, defeating the South Peace Blizzard from Grande Prairie in three sets, but were downed in straight sets by Calgary Canuck’s Black and the Voyageurs from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Que.
This meant the Rage would playoff among the eight teams placed in tier IV and that’s when things began to click.
The girls got by the Blizzard Navy club from Bedford, N.S. in three sets in their quarter-final match on May 20 and followed that up with another three set victory in the semifinal over the Vancouver Thunder White. However, the Vancouver Thunder Blue squad proved tougher to beat in the final, with the Rage losing the third set 15-6 after tying the match up with a 25-20 win in the second set.
”The most challenging part of Nationals was competing and adjusting against teams from all over Canada,” Emes said.
“Adjusting to other styles of volleyball can be intimidating, but we were able to get past this challenge by sticking to what we knew, trusting our own training and each other and, as coaches, making sure our athletes were continuing to have fun out there.”
Emes added the girls were somewhat intimidated and overwhelmed initially, but that the coaching staff reminded the team how hard they worked to get there and, in the end, it didn’t matter what happened on day one.
“Because there are so many more days to win something, but also making sure to emphasize that we were there to have fun. Winning isn’t everything, but the camaraderie and the memories that they were making out there were what was important. We told them to trust themselves and each other and we knew that they would do well,” she said.
The girls weren’t the only ones to come home with some hardware, as Emes was one of four individuals to be presented with a Mizuno Volleyball Canada Outstanding Coach Award.
For Emes, it was definitely unexpected.
“I don’t coach to get awards. I coach for the athletes so they have a place where they can feel safe, learn valuable life skills and to help them grow as people outside of athletics,” she said.
“Receiving this award was a shocking, humbling, and validating experience. While I don’t expect recognition, I feel so honoured to be recognized nationally because that means that I am accomplishing what I have set out to do in regards to the athletes.”
Emes also wanted to acknowledge the many people, institutions, sponsors and volunteers that have helped the club throughout the past season.
“Without their support, we would not have been able to compete in so many tournaments and their generosity has allowed for these girls the opportunity to participate in a game that they love with their friends,” she added.