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This article was published 27/11/2018 (584 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s being called anybody's race between the four varsity girls teams remaining in the Boston Pizza AAAA Provincial High School Volleyball Championships.
Unlike previous years where there’s been a heavy favourite, there is no obvious leader of the pack this season, making for what should be an exciting finish to the 2018 campaign.
Of the final four, which includes the No. 1-ranked Mennonite Brethren Hawks, the Lord Selkirk Royals (2), the Portage Collegiate Saints (3) and the College Jeanne-Sauvé Olympiens (5), all have posted successful seasons. Each club also appears fairly confident as they prepare for their respective semifinal matchups Wednesday at Investors Group Athletic Centre on the University of Manitoba campus.
"The reality is the last four teams are all very competitive. I would certainly say that it’s not clear cut who is favoured," Hawks head coach Brian Plett said Tuesday. "If you look at each team: Portage has had a lot of success, they won the Westwood tournament; Selkirk, even though we had a lot of success against them during the year, they went into provincials ranked No. 2 because they’ve had a winning record against almost everybody else; and Sauve, had they had their full roster for most of the year they would have been very solid. So it’s fair to say that it’s been very close and we don’t think that it’s a forgone conclusion that we’re advancing. We’re going to have to play very well (Wednesday) night to win."
Look no further than the current situation facing the Hawks. Despite being a perfect 12-0 to pace the KPAC Tier 1 Division, not to mention a sparking 32-4 record when factoring in tournament play, they’ll have to get past a tough opponent in the Olympiens.
The Olympiens, who have a number of returning players from last year’s provincial championship team, also went unbeaten in the regular season, posting an 11-0 record to finish atop the SCAC Tier 1 Division. They’re also as healthy as they’ve been all year, with the return of a number of key players who missed notable time throughout the year.
"They have been our rival for the last couple of years now," said Hawks libero Victoria Duester. "It’s always an intense game and they’re a big challenge for us to make the finals."
The winner between the Hawks and Olympiens will face the winner of another close matchup between Lord Selkirk (43-7) and Portage Collegiate (35-10).
The Royals were 7-3 during the regular season but won four of the five tournaments they played in. The Saints look to avenge last year’s disappointing loss in the provincial final.
"Teams have been showing consistency and then inconsistencies in others, so I feel like (Wednesday) night, in any of the semifinals, that any team could come out ahead," Royals head coach Kyla Michalski said. "It just depends on who comes to perform."
On the boys side, many believe the finals will be contested between the St. Paul’s Crusaders and Dakota Lancers, the province’s first- and second-ranked teams, respectively. The Crusaders won just two of the six meetings between the two clubs this season but were given the top ranking because they edged the Lancers in the most recent match.
But as the Crusaders' (43-4) longtime coach Lloyd Voth insists, there is a ton of talent on the other two teams — the Steinbach Regional Sabres (3) and Lord Selkirk Royals (4) — and each will be a tough opponent en route to a shot at the provincial title. He warned that you shouldn’t look too far ahead of Thursday’s matchups, given how tight these four teams have played each other this year.
At Investors Group Athletic Centre
Mennonite Brethren Hawks (1) vs. College Jeanne-Sauve Olympiens (5), 6 p.m.
Lord Selkirk Royals (2) vs. Portage Collegiate Saints (3), 8 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.
Dakota Lancers (2) vs. Steinbach Regional Sabres (3), 6 p.m.
St. Paul's Crusaders (1) vs. Lord Selkirk Royals (4), 8 p.m.
Semifinals winners, 8 p.m.
"We’ve played Steinbach and Selkirk a number of times this year and we’ve had close games against both of those teams. Both teams have very good players and are very well-coached, so getting past the semis will be certainly the first challenge," said Voth, whose Crusaders will be up against the Royals. "As for Dakota, they have some very strong players. (Left-side) Isaiah Olfert is maybe the best player in the province. They’re very well-coached by Phil Hudson, so you know they’re going to be very well-prepared."
The Lancers (47-4-1) have been one of the toughest teams to play against this season. Described as having a fast-paced offence with plenty of weapons, Dakota will have to first beat Steinbach, one of the few teams to defeat the Lancers this year.
"Our match against Steinbach, it’s going to be a very tough challenge for us. They’ve had a lot of injuries throughout the year and now they’re getting their full team back and ready to go, so it’s going to be a great match," said Hudson. "They’re very strong, offensively-minded, with some good young players that know how to win. They won the junior varsity provincials last year, so they’ve got a lineage of success and winning in their program."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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Updated on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 10:19 AM CST: Corrects next opponent.