Junior spikers hope tournament success carries into opener

Lucas Punkari

If their showing at a tournament in Dryden over the weekend is any indication, this year’s NorWOSSA campaign could be a very exciting one for the Muskie junior girls’ volleyball team.
Split into two squads, both Muskie teams ended up facing each other in the semi-finals, with Team “Black” going on to win in three sets (25-21, 18-25, and 15-11) to advance to the final, where they fell in two sets (22-25 and 20-25) to the host Eagles.
“Having to watch both teams go against each other in the semis was good and bad, to be honest,” noted head coach Jason Cain.
“If both teams had finished first in their round-robin [pool], they could have played in the final,” he explained.
“That [match] was the best junior volleyball that I have seen in four years between any team, as both sides came out talking louder than they have ever had and they were both determined to win,” Cain added.
“The team that ended up winning had just two Grade 10 players with the rest of the squad being all rookies, and they just worked hard out there to get the eventual win.”
With those performances fresh in his mind, Cain is expecting the squad to continue its strong play in their first two NorWOSSA matches of the regular season.
They head back to Dryden today before hosting the Kenora Broncos tomorrow afternoon.
“I’m really looking forward to those games, especially for our game against Dryden,” Cain said.
“To combine the girls into one team and to face Dryden again should make that game a very strong one, and I think we should give them a run for their money,” he remarked.
Having faced both squads during last weekend’s tournament, Cain knows a little bit of what to expect from the Eagles and Broncos during the league-openers.
“Dryden is going to be consistent like they always are,” he said. “They are a fast team that serves well.
“But we do have a big height advantage on them, and I think that is going to be a key to stopping some of their big hitters.
“With Kenora, you never know what you are going to get with them,” Cain continued.
“They don’t attack very often and they tip the ball a lot, but they play a similar defence to what we do, so we know where we have to cover and we know where to attack on their weakness.”
While the junior squad is feeling quite confident about starting the NorWOSSA season with a bang, senior girls’ head coach Duane Roen feels his team will be progressing slowly throughout the campaign.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit rough at the start as we are a little bit rough around the edges with new setters, and many kids learned a system that they aren’t used to,” he explained.
“But I think once the kids understand the system we are going to use, and clean up things a little bit on the passing game, I think we are going to be just fine.”
 After finishing a tournament in Dryden on Dec. 9-10 with a 1-4-2 record, where the black-and-gold lost to both Dryden and Kenora, Roen has been working on a variety of things to get his squad ready for the NorWOSSA season.
“We’ve been working a lot on our systems and our passing games, especially with working on where people need to go once the ball has been hit,” he said.
“One of the things that I noticed during the course of the weekend in Dryden was how we needed to get to our spots as quick as possible,” he recalled.
“But once they are more familiar with everything and getting more confident out there, they will be fine.”