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Mighty Kodiaks bear down

River East will meet Lord Selkirk Royals in the AAAA high school girls volleyball final

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The attack from the left went right for the River East Kodiaks on Wednesday and they're headed to the girls' final of the 2010 Boston Pizza AAAA Provincial Volleyball Championships.

The No. 3 Kodiaks eliminated the two-time defending champion Crocus Plains Plainsmen with a 25-23, 25-20, 28-30, 25-16 victory at the University of Manitoba Investors Group Athletic Centre.

The Kodiaks will meet the No. 5 Selkirk Royals in the girls' championship on Monday at 6 p.m. at IGAC.

In the late semifinal, Selkirk upset the top-ranked St. Mary's Flames by snuffing out the Flames 25-19, 25-22, 17-25, 25-19.

"I'm so proud of this team; they weren't concerned about seedings, they just went out there to play, they play their best volleyball when they're having fun," said Selkirk head coach Kristy Fewchuk.

"To be going to the final is just huge for us. St. Mary's is a tough team to beat. I knew it was going to be a long, hard match but it was their mental toughness that kept them in this match. That win is just straight the girls keeping their calm on the court."

Led by Crystal Mulder and Shanlee McLennan, the Kodiaks stormed out of the gate and dominated most of the match with a powerful attack, taking advantage of costly unforced errors by the Plainsmen.

"To be going to the final, it's just insane. I can't even explain the feeling because it's been so long since that's happened for River East," said McLennan, a Grade 12 student, who along with player of the game Mulder led River East in kills.

Head coach Megan Bradshaw's Kodiaks will be looking to win their first AAAA championship in girls' volleyball since 2000-01 when River East won a fourth straight girls' title.

Crocus, which had faced an arduous bus ride to Winnipeg in white-out conditions earlier in the day, arrived with no time for a pre-game practice. The Plainsmen searched for their rhythm throughout the match and showed their tenacity late in the third set, when the defending champions refused to go out without a fight. Crocus Plains served with set point four times before putting away the set.

"We knew that Crocus was an amazing team and a great competitor and that we were going to have to bring it and give it our all, so that's what we did," McLennan said. "We were just in it today."

Crocus head coach Trista Wenger said the Plainsmen had a long day and didn't play as well as they were capable of playing.

"It's not even that they were stopping us, it was the fact that we were having a hard time handling their left-sides. They did such a good job scoring with their left side," Wenger said.

The Plainsmen were supposed to leave at 9 a.m. but poor highway conditions held them back. The team ended up chartering a bus and, after a three-hour ride in terrible road conditions, arrived much later than planned.

Wenger said her team should not be upset about the loss, as the team showed spark and drive. River East had a 20-16 lead in the first set but Crocus, led by determined efforts from setter Mary Thomson and Royals player of the game Niki Friesen, battled back to tie it 23-23 before River East wrapped it up.

"At times, we played really, really well. Maybe we peaked at the wrong time, but we're really young. We'll miss the girls who are graduating, but we have a lot of girls who will be back to take another run at it," Wenger said.

In the other semifinal, the Royals played as if the seedings did not exist. With precision passing from libero Megan Smith and left-side Alissa Enns, the Royals used a controlled attack from Mikaela Ryshytylo and and blocking from Jenna Gunter to try to extinguish the Flames.

The boys semifinals will be played tonight beginning at 6 p.m. with the No. 1-seeded Dakota Lancers meeting No. 4 John Taylor Pipers, followed at 8 p.m. by the No. 3 Lord Selkirk Royals taking on No. 2 Mennonite Brethren Hawks. The U of M is broadcasting both matches on the Internet at www.gobisons.ca.

The boys' final, which will be played Monday at 8 p.m., and the girls final will be televised live by Shaw TV on channel 9.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 25, 2010 C3

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