A bronze medal isn’t something one usually writes home about, but for the Ponoka Warriors Volleyball Club this isn’t something normal.
Over the May long weekend, the Warriors U16 girls squad fought off a number of the 40 division three clubs to reach the podium at the West Nationals hosted at the University of Calgary.
Head coach Darren Josephison explained this is the first time the Warriors have been at a national tournament since 2009 and marks the club’s best finish ever under Josephison.
“This just caps a great season for the team in which they claimed two silver and three bronze medals, plus gold at their own home tournament,” he added.
The three day competition — May 20 to 22 — actually got going for the Warriors one day earlier, with the girls getting acclimated to the huge 20 court facility set up inside the Olympic Oval on the university grounds.
The preliminary round robin on the Saturday saw the Warriors come out with two victories in their three matches.
The club first dominated 25-5, 25-15 over the Hitmen from Calgary and ended the day with another convincing 25-10, 25-17 over Saskatoon-based Tron Power. In between, in what Josephison described as “a wake-up call” match, the Warriors fell 13-25, 16-25 to a club from the Mavericks Volleyball Club of Winnipeg.
That put them second in the pool and put the Warriors in likely the toughest Power Pool for Sunday’s second round matches. The pool included the Strathmore Chaos and another Mavericks club, who both finished first in their pools, as well as the Lacombe Thunder.
The Warriors came out on top of Strathmore in a tough three set match 26-24, 20-25, 15-12 to open the round, then eclipsed the Mavericks in another three set grind 25-17,16-25, 25-6. The final match of the round had the Warriors exacting some revenge on their Lacombe arch rivals — who beat Ponoka in the Premier division 1 final in February — by scoring a 25-20, 25-12 win to go undefeated in the round and move into the Division 3 Tier 1 playoffs on Victoria Day.
In their quarter final versus the Calgary Rebels, the girls put up a solid 25-18 opening set win. Josephison said the girls “completely collapsed” in the second set, losing 10-25, but rebounded in the final set and cruised to a 15-8 win.
However, that pitted them against a strong Winnipeg Dynamos club in the semi-final, where the Warriors fell 13-25, 12-25.
The girls regrouped during the lunch break and wound up in a three-set bronze medal thriller versus the Canmore Rockies. It was the Warriors coming out with a 25-22 first set win, but allowed the Rockies back in it by losing the second 19-25. However, the athletes were determined not to let a medal slip through their grasp and jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the final set then kept on pace to win 15-7.
“With a medal in their grasp, the girls hung on to win, bringing with it a flood of tears of joy from players, coaches, and parents,” added Josephison.
The Warriors squad included players Shannelle Remanda, Taylor Ronald, Hailey Pettersen, Chelsey Johns, Tiffany Ronald, Marlayna Dyck, Searra Schoepfner, Alysha Balatbat, Jaycee Tebb, Katherine Harink and Danicia Martin along with head coach Darren Josephison, assistant coach Henny Derepite and trainer Courtney Sinnott.