Rachel COCKRELL and Kevin Bommersbach have a few things in common.
Both are standouts on their respective school's varsity volleyball teams. Cockrell, whose coach J.J. Ross says, "is the most dynamic jumper in the province," plays for the Westwood Warriors, and Bommersbach, who coach Tim Au describes as, "a dynamic attacker, who hits a heavy ball," plays for the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes.
Both players will be putting it on the line as the Boston Pizza AAAA volleyball provincial semifinals take centre court today and Thursday at the U of M Investors Group Athletic Centre.
Cockrell's sixth-seeded Warriors will take on the No. 2 Vincent Massey (Winnipeg) Trojans at 8 p.m., today.
Bommersbach will lead his No. 2 Buckeyes into battle Thursday, at 8 p.m., against a traditional rival, the No. 3 Mennonite Brethren Hawks.
Both players intend to be in their respective finals on Monday, also at the IGAC, and each has their own motivation.
By the way, Cockrell and Bommersbach have also been dating for the past year, so it's a no-brainer as to which significant other's team each will be cheering for this week.
"We met in the Grade 9 club nationals in Calgary," said Cockrell. I was with Shock. I won, but he finished third."
"I played with Win Manitoba volleyball club," Bommersbach said.
The other varsity girls semifinal today at 6 p.m. has defending champion and No. 1 seed Crocus Plains Plainsmen playing the No. 4 St. Mary's Academy Flames. The Flames are making their first appearance in the final four. The No. 1 Dakota Lancers will play the No. 4 River East Kodiaks in the other boys semifinal Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m.
Cockrell's motivation is to take care of unfinished business. Westwood has been in the final four the past four years, but lost in the final the last two. The 5-foot-10 hitter, who has a vertical reach of 10-foot-2, has played on all four of those teams, and says its time they won the title.
"I'd say we're super, super excited since we beat River East in the quarter-final, which was one of the better games we've had all season," she said. "Everyone played just unreal."
Cockrell added that they are also excited to be playing Vincent Massey in the semifinal, "especially after we lost to them in the conference final. We get another shot at trying to compete and win."
Bommersbach, a 6-foot-1 power-hitter, anchors a starting lineup which features three Grade 12s and one Grade 11. For him, defending their provincial title is paramount, but there is also the Miles Macdonell history on the volleyball court. The team has won 11 championships since the AAAA Division began in 1962-63.
"You always think about it (the team's history)," he said, "because it's your school. But you also want to win for yourself, and the guys on your team."
Bommersbach predicts that their game Thursday against MBCI will be a war. "Its been so tough all season. MBCI was ranked No. 1 all year. We beat them in the KPAC conference final. It went to five, and it was a really good game. It's unfortunate that we meet them so early."
AAAA FINAL FOUR
All games to be played at the University of Manitoba's Investors Group Athletic Centre (seeding in parenthesis):
6 p.m: (1) Crocus Plains (Brandon) vs. (4) St. Mary's Academy
8 p.m: (2) Vincent Massey (Winnipeg) vs. (6) Westwood
6 p.m: (1) Dakota vs. (4) River East
8 p.m: (2) Miles Macdonell vs. (3) Mennonite Brethren
6 p.m: Varsity girls final
8 p.m: Varsity boys final