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This article was published 29/11/2016 (1708 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Repeat, revenge, and redemption are just a few of the storylines as the stacked "final fours" of the 2016 AAAA high school varsity provincial volleyball championships hit the courts Wednesday night at the University of Manitoba.
The girls’ semifinals at Investors Group Athletic Centre feature four of the top five ranked teams in Manitoba, including the defending champion St. Mary’s Academy Flames. The Flames, ranked second in the province, boast a 31-1 record this season. They battle the No. 3-ranked Lord Selkirk Royals at 8 p.m.
The Flames are the team everyone is chasing this season after they won last year’s provincial crown.
"Every year is a new year, but luckily we had quite a few Grade 11s move into that leadership role in Grade 12 this year," Flames coach Kyla Michalski said Tuesday at the Manitoba High School Athletic Association’s provincials kickoff event at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
The No. 2 ranking hasn’t irked the team, despite its near-perfect record. But the lone blemish, coming at the hands of the top-ranked Westwood Collegiate Warriors, has St. Mary’s motivated to move to the final and a possible rematch.
"Everyone is very competitive on our team, so obviously losing to (Westwood) in the past fuels us more to go after it and win," said Flames middle Laura Hill.
The top-ranked Warriors take on a tough Brandon squad — the Vincent Massey Vikings — at 6 p.m.
"(The Vikings) probably have one of the top setters in the province," Warriors coach Bryan Enns said. "We’ve got to make sure we’re covering each other and helping each other out. We definitely have to be on our ‘A’ game."
Westwood is gunning for its first provincial championship banner.
"It would be absolutely amazing to be able to get that title for the school," said Warriors middle Emily Dewey.
On the boys’ side, the Lord Selkirk Regional Secondary School Royals have been the cream of the crop this season in high school volleyball. They’ve lost just four times, won 42 matches and nabbed first-place honours in six tournaments.
Ranked No. 1 in the province, Selkirk is the team with the bull’s-eye on its back.
"I think our depth… we’re not one or two guys," Royals coach Jeff Scarcello said. "We’ve got a very talented group. We practise hard, we play hard. We train really hard every day."
The Royals were bounced from the quarter-finals last year. But the road to redemption has been a smooth one so far as they defeated the defending-champion St. Paul’s Crusaders to reach Friday’s semifinals at IGAC and get one step closer to their fifth high school volleyball championship.
"We fell short last year, so having that in our hearts and minds from last year, knowing we don’t want to feel the same way has really pushed us through," Scarcello said.
The Royals will take on the fifth-ranked Vincent Massey (Brandon) in Friday’s first semifinal at 6 p.m., while the second matchup pits the second-ranked Dakota Collegiate Lancers against the Miles Macdonell Collegiate Buckeyes at 8 p.m.
"(Miles Macdonell) had probably more success throughout the entire year," Lancers coach Phil Hudson said. "Our team improved most in the last three or four weeks of the season and we had a big jump up then to go from the No. 7 ranking to the No. 2 spot. We realize it will be a very difficult match."
The provincial finals are slated for Monday at IGAC. The girls’ championship match is set for 6 p.m., with the boys’ finale to follow at 8 p.m.