The Westwood Collegiate varsity boys’ volleyball team has proven that age is just a number this season.
With only one Grade 12 player on the roster, the Warriors finished second in the West Winnipeg Athletic Conference with a 7-1 record and were ranked seventh overall in the Manitoba High School Athletics Association’s AAAA boys division, netting them a spot in the provincial championship tournament.
"Considering how young they were, we did quite well," head coach Brian Schmeichel said.
Schmeichel says the team excelled this season thanks to good ball control, a fast offence and a deep bench.
The tight-knit group of athletes have also been playing together for years on junior high, club and junior varsity teams — last year the Warriors’ JV team made it to the provincial semifinal under the leadership of varsity assistant coach, Ken Vince.
"We know each other well enough to know when each of us needs a boost or some motivation and if one of us is not feeling our best or playing their best we know how to make up for their errors with our corrections," libero Brayden Lee said.
Lee is one of three players on the team enrolled in Westwood’s challenging international baccalaureate program.
"(IB) is a feat in itself and then being able to do that alongside a major varsity sport is quite an accomplishment," Schmeichel said.
The Grade 11 student has maintained a high grade point average while playing volleyball and hockey for the Warriors.
"I get home at like 8 p.m. and that’s when I eat and then go to bed almost right after because I also have morning hockey practice," he said. "I try to minimize my homework by doing as much as I can in class."
Bentley Turner agrees with Lee’s homework strategy and says even though it can be difficult to balance advanced academics and a demanding sports schedule, the IB program is worth it.
"It’s a big step up from regular classes, but I think it’s really setting us up for a successful future," he said. "It’s allowing us to have a different high school experience."
On the court, Turner believes the Warriors can compete with every other team in the provincial championship tournament.
"I just think we have a lot we can still give," he said.
The team rolled through the conference playoffs undefeated until facing the St. Paul’s Crusaders in the final — the only team they’ve lost to this year.
Grade 11 player Josh Bond says that while the loss was disappointing the team came close in the first two sets with scores of 24-25 and 22-25.
"If we just take away a few mistakes we know how close we could’ve been," said Bond, who’s also in the IB program. "With that in our minds going into provincials we’re really hungry for a deep run at least."
The Warriors are aiming for a final four at the provincials this year and are already looking forward to next year.
"Given that we’ll have a bunch of returning players, I think provincial championships will be the goal for us," Bond said.
The Warriors' provincial run starts Nov. 23 with a game against the 12th seeded Grant Park Pirates. The winner of that game will play the fourth place Lord Serkirk Royals on Nov. 24.
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.