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Hawks hoping to fly to new heights

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It’s a surprising fact, considering the longstanding success of the volleyball program at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute: the school has never won a provincial varsity girls’ championship.

There have been trips to the final, but never a banner for the volleyball-mad school in Elmwood.

This year’s squad has a chance to change that, and could even join the boys to make it a truly memorable season. Both varsity teams were ranked No. 1 in the province heading into provincials, and they’re each only two wins away from championships.

"There’s always some excitement around the school this time of year," said Laura Klassen, a Grade 12 right side from North Kildonan. "And especially now because (two championships) could happen, and it’s never happened before."

The boys last won a provincial title in 2009, and captured back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002. The girls last played in the final in 2001, when Angela Wiebe was in Grade 12. Now she’s an assistant on head coach John Schmidt’s staff.

"It’s quite a different team than what I played on," said Wiebe, a North Kildonan resident. "Nowadays, the players almost all play club volleyball. In my time only two or three did. They have a lot more experience than I did."

While most of the Hawks are playing plenty of volleyball outside of school, they are spread out across a variety of different clubs. That meant the team needed to find some chemistry quickly at the start of the season.

"It was kind of odd," Klassen said. "We haven’t been playing together a long time, but it happened quickly. We get along good, and it benefits us a lot on the court. We push each other to play hard."

Wiebe said the team’s camaraderie is its greatest asset. She said the players look forward to practising just so that they can be together.

"Even other people at games have come up to me and said, ‘Your girls just love each other,’" she said.

It wasn’t until the conference playoffs, prior to a quarter-final match, that the coaches told the players they had a chance to make school history. Wiebe said many of the players were shocked that the school had no girls’ banners.

"I told them my year was the last year we were in the finals," she said. "That gave them more motivation. Our angle is to let them know it’s possible."

The Hawks went on to win the KPAC title, and are 42-5 on the season. Klassen, who is one of only three graduating players on the team, isn’t putting enormous pressure on herself, but she’d sure like to end her career with a bang.

"For me this would be a nice way to end off playing volleyball," she said. "It would be good for the team, fun for everyone."

The MBCI girls take on Miles Macdonell at 8 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the Duckworth Centre. The first semifinal, at 6 p.m., features Glenlawn and Neelin.

The boys’ semis go the next night, with MBCI facing St. Paul’s at 6 p.m. and Miles Mac going up against Lord Selkirk at 8.

The finals are scheduled for Nov. 26, with the girls at 6 p.m. followed by the boys.  

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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