It’s shaping up to be a big year for the volleyball program at Miles Macdonell Collegiate.
In provincial rankings for the week of Oct. 23, the school’s varsity girls and junior-varsity boys teams were both ranked No. 1, while the varsity boys and junior-varsity girls were both No. 2.
The school has a long history of provincial championships, but has never raised two banners in the same year.
Coming off an undefeated season at the varsity boys level, there’s a sense of a rising tide across all four teams.
"The coaches are pretty proud," said Tim Au, who coaches the varsity boys. "We’re working hard and there seems to be some momentum and a good vibe right now."
There is no shortage of theories on why the Buckeyes seem to have built such a strong program. Some point to the vibrant club volleyball scene in the area, while others look at the number of players who make volleyball their primary sport.
Au also believes the commitment of coaches and players is as strong at Miles Mac as it is anywhere.
"We put in six days a week from September to December," he said. "That’s part of theformula, that time and work ethic. The kids thrive on that."
Brianna Solberg, a captain on the varsity girls squad, says the Buckeyes put in the time right from Grade 10.
"I think what’s great about the program is the way we take it so seriously," she said. "We put in countless hours in the gym working on things. And coaching has a lot to do with it as well. They push us to be our best."
Solberg lives in Riverbend, but chose to attend Miles Mac because of the reputation of its volleyball teams.
The varsity girls play their club volleyball for a variety of teams, so it’s taken them several weeks to find their groove. The boys, on the other hand, almost all play for the Winman club, and come into the high school season with an already established sense of team chemistry.
"It’s difficult early," Solberg said, "but that’s just part of it. We just keep getting better and better, and hopefully we’ll peak at the end."
Au’s team has five returning players from last season, including three starters. He said the afterglow of the perfect season brought out a record 20 players to this year’s tryouts.
"Perhaps a lot of athletes want to be a part of something they think will be special," said the coach. "We had a couple Grade 12s come out who haven’t played in Grade 10 or 11 just to be part of the program."
Au said talk of winning multiple provincial championships is inevitable if the Buckeyes keep winning, but so far there hasn’t been much of that.
But what if Miles Mac does end up raising two, three — who knows? — maybe even four banners?
"That would be a really big deal," Solberg said. "It would be history in the making."