They have been one of the Manitoba High School Athletic Association's volleyball powerhouses for the better part of this millennium.
And so pardon the folks at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute if they wouldn't like to add two more AAAA provincial championship banners to their collection. Oh, and you'll also have to excuse the likes of the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes, Glenlawn Lions, Neelin Spartans, St. Paul's Crusaders and Lord Selkirk Royals if they don't feel the right to step in here and author their own championship chapters.
The march toward crowning the MHSAA's AAAA High School Volleyball champions begins tonight at the University of Winnipeg's Duckworth Centre with the girls' semifinals, continues Thursday with the boys' semis and wraps up Monday with the two championship matches (both on Shaw TV).
Interestingly, both the MBCI girls' and boys' squads are top-ranked heading into the Final Four. This after the Hawks girls team won the provincial junior varsity title last weekend.
"It's not something you think about all the time, but we know that MBCI has a strong history in volleyball," said Adam Schriemer, the Hawks' 6-6 setter. "Our gym is full of banners from all sports, but there are a lot of volleyball banners. It's an exciting time. It's not very often for a small school to be ranked No. 1 and have a good shot going into the provincials.
"But we know we've got a lot of work to do first. St. Paul's is going to be tough."
Just FYI -- and while trying not to look too far ahead -- the last time a AAAA school won both the girls and boys' titles was 2003-04, when Dakota grabbed both championships. Dating back to 1967-68, it's a feat that has been accomplished just five times: Dakota in '03-04, '73-74, '69-70 and '67-68 and Lord Selkirk in '85-86.
"Over the years we've had a lot of solid teams come out of MBCI and this is another special group," said Hawks' boys' head coach Brian Plett.
"For a tiny little school, we have maybe 50 boys in Grade 12, and a very small pool of athletes to choose from we consider ourselves very fortunate. It's a real testament to our kids, to our other coaches at the younger levels and the parents who are very supportive. We feel very privileged to be in this position."
Standing in the Hawks' way are the Crusaders, the same team that upset them last year, and either the Lord Selkirk Royals or defending champion Miles Macdonell Buckeyes -- a program which has captured two of the last four boys' titles -- who meet in the other semifinal.
"Last year our theme and focus was to outwork the other teams, compete and also be responsible and mindful when we're on the court," said Tim Au, the Buckeyes' head coach. "That's been our goal again this year.
"This Final Four, it's pretty tight. I think everyone's beaten each other at one point or another this year. It's going to be exciting because it could go to any team. It's going to be fun."
On the girls' side, the top-ranked Hawks compiled a dominant 40-1-5 record during the regular season, including wins in four of the five tournaments they entered and finishing second in the other.
"Part of our success is the players are super dedicated and committed to the sport," said MBCI assistant coach Angela Wiebe.
"We've had 100 per cent attendance at practice and they've worked really hard to come to where they are. The main thing we saw right away was the camaraderie of the team. The 'team' aspect is the most-important thing and seeing how close they are on and off the court has really helped a lot."
The MHSAA will also be crowning volleyball champions in the A, AA and AAA divisions, with those tournaments beginning Thursday and wrapping up Saturday. The A championships are being held in St. Jean (girls) and Elm Creek (boys); AA in Souris (girls) and Russell (boys); and AAA in Lorette (girls) and Iles des Chenes (boys).
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Game 1, 6 p.m., today -- Neelin Spartans (2) vs. Glenlawn Lions (3)
Neelin Spartans No. 2
League won/loss record: 6-0
Overall record: 30-7-2
Playoffs: defeated Vincent Massey (Brandon) in quarter-finals
Head coach: Kevin Neufeld
Key players: Amy Gordon, Alison Quiring, Jordan Hardy
Glenlawn Lions No. 3
League won/loss record: 12-0
Overall record: 40-15
Playoffs: defeated Westwood in quarter-finals
Head coach: Joe Moore
Key players: Laura McManes, Tessa Adams, Emily Potter
Game 2, 8 p.m., today -- Mennonite Brethren Hawks (1) vs. Miles Macdonell Buckeyes (5)
Mennonite Brethren Hawks No. 1
League won/loss record: 11-0
Overall record: 40-1-5
Playoffs: defeated St. Mary's Academy in quarter-finals
Head coach: John Schmidt
Key players: Laura Klassen, Kelena Schulz
Miles Macdonell Buckeyes No. 5
League won/loss record: 9-2
Overall record: 35-10
Playoffs: defeated Kelvin in opening round, then Lord Selkirk in quarter-finals
Head coach: Nadia Melon
Key players: Brianna Solberg, Stephanie Hunt, Cassie Bujan
Game 1, 6 p.m., Thursday -- Mennonite Brethren Hawks (1) vs. St. Paul's Crusaders (4)
Mennonite Brethren Hawks No. 1
League won/loss record: 7-1
Overall record: 36-7
Playoffs: defeated Westgate in quarter-finals
Head coach: Brian Plett
Key players: Adam Schriemer, Josh Goossen, Brendan Folkerts
St. Paul's Crusaders No. 4
League won/loss record: 12-1
Overall record: 39-4-2
Playoffs: defeated Steinbach in quarter-finals
Head coach: David Havixbeck
Key players: Adam DeJonckheere, Dusty Spiring, Andrew Lysack, Tom Meier, Matt Hooker, Ryan Stasiuk
Game 2, 8 p.m., Thursday -- Lord Selkirk Royals (2) vs. Miles Macdonell Buckeyes (3)
Lord Selkirk Royals No. 2
League won/loss record: 10-1
Overall record: 40-10-1
Playoffs: defeated Dakota in quarterfinals
Head coach: Jeff Scarcello
Key players: Joel Makara, Brandon Sutherland, Greg Kuz
Miles Macdonell Buckeyes No. 3
League won/loss record: 7-1
Overall record: 33-8
Playoffs: defeated River East in quarterfinal
Head coach: Tim Au
Key players: David Bommersbach, Sawyer Jeffrey, Tim Ireland, Michael McMurray