Fourth-place finish for senior spikers

Joey Payeur

The gap is closing.
The Muskie senior girls’ volleyball team served notice this past weekend at the Kenora Broncos’ home tournament that even in defeat, they are starting to unravel the mystery of the Dryden Eagles—the long-tenured volleyball powerhouse of the NorWOSSA circuit.
The black-and-gold settled for fourth place in the tournament after losing the best-of-three ‘A’-side semi-final 2-0 to the Eagles (set scores were not available for any of the matches).
Still, Muskie head coach Duane Roen said his team played “the best it had all year” even while being eliminated from further contention.
“It was a good way to end the weekend,” noted Roen. “Even though we lost, we were holding our own with them.
“I saw a lot of good things out there,” he added. “Just little differences in our serve reception and on our attack game are really showing.
“We’ve been trying to get the girls to start hitting the ball hard on the attack and they’re starting to do it,” Roen added. “The passing game has picked up dramatically since before Christmas.
“The kids are improving, which was the whole goal of the tournament,” he reasoned.
Fort High opened the tournament with a 2-0 victory over a Broncos’ split squad, then were swept 2-0 themselves by the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) in a match which Roen said “pretty much everything went wrong.”
The Muskies rebounded with a 2-0 decision over the Red Lake Rams, then split two sets versus the Churchill Bulldogs (Thunder Bay).
That was followed with a 2-0 win over the Dennis Franklin Cromarty Timberwolves (Thunder Bay).
Heading into their final preliminary-round match against the Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute Gryphons (Thunder Bay), the Muskies needed only a split of the two-set showdown to nail down second place in the standings.
But Fort High lost a close opening set by two points, then were beaten again in the second one—dropping them to fourth in the seven-team event.
In the quarter-finals, Fort High drew the other Broncos’ split squad, which finished fifth and was the stronger of the two host teams.
Clicking on all cylinders, the Muskies won the best-of-three match in straight sets to earn a semi-final berth against Dryden.
Roen hopes the weekend performance will act as a springboard for his crew, which resumed NorWOSSA play here yesterday against Kenora in last place at 0-3 (the outcome of the match was not known by press time).
That includes building off not only their tournament showing against Dryden over the weekend, but also their NorWOSSA match-up last Thursday at the Eagles’ nest, which Dryden won in three hard-fought sets by scores of 25-18, 25-18, and 25-19.
“They’re still very strong and always are,” Roen said of the Eagles. “But they’re not the powerhouse they’ve been in the past.
“We’re starting to figure them out.
“We’re a work in progress, but this past weekend was the first time we’ve had a full roster, although we had a couple of starters have to sit out part or all of the semi-final due to what looked like fatigue from illnesses that they’re battling,” he added.
“But we’ve had some of our Grade 11s step up, like Caitlin Sande coming in for Sara Roach at the left power position, and do a good job,” Roen noted.