Second-straight title for jr. spikers

Jamie Mountain

At this rate, the Muskie junior girls’ volleyball team is starting to look like a dynasty.
The black-and-gold capped an undefeated season with a 3-0 sweep of the second-place Kenora Broncos in the NorWOSSA final Friday afternoon in Kenora.
It also was the second-straight league title for the Muskies, who swept the Dryden Eagles 3-0 in last year’s final.
“We worked really hard this year to improve our skills and team play,” Muskie head coach Bob Kowal noted.
“We do a lot of different things in practices but we really focused on serving and passing, which we believe we do better than anyone else in the league,” he remarked.
“We also created a lot of depth within the team by giving kids opportunities during our tournaments.
“We did our best to give kids opportunities to be successful in situations where they demonstrated during practice that they could be successful,” Kowal reasoned.
“It certainly wasn’t a masterpiece we painted on Friday but we kept painting and it was good enough.”
After taking the first set 25-15, the Muskies kept that momentum going and won the next two by scores of 25-15 and 25-18.
Fort High had earned the bye to final by virtue of finishing in first place in the regular season with an 8-0 record.
The Broncos, meanwhile, edged the third-place Eagles in five sets earlier in the day (25-22, 22-25, 13-25, 25-12, and 18-16) to earn a shot at gold against the Muskies.
“Beaver Brae really improved throughout the year,” Kowal said. “In my opinion, their greatest strengths were passing and team play.
“They rarely looked rattled during games and played hard no matter what the score.
“Our girls knew if we could continue to pass and serve the ball well, we would be successful,” he added.
Kowal also was pleased with the opportunity to coach the Muskies again this season, and is intrigued with the future of his athletes.
“It was great to coach some of these girls for the past two years, we never lost a match all year and really dominated the season for the most part,” he lauded.
“I think we’re just starting to make some headway with the girls,” he remarked. “I expect they have a lot more to offer in the future.
“It was a definitely a long season with the Christmas and exam breaks,” Kowal conceded. “But the kids managed to keep their focus for the year.
“I do believe they wanted to play the NorWOSSA championship game weeks ago as they were anxious to show they were the best team,” he remarked.
As far as next season is concerned, Kowal conceded things can change quite a bit for those making the jump from the junior to senior ranks.
In his opinion, the players themselves will decide whether they just want to play volleyball or become “volleyball players.”
“What I mean is that it takes more effort to stay on top when you play at the senior [level],” he reasoned.
“What will set great teams apart from good teams is having a core group of players who start to understand the importance of physical training,” he stressed.
“If kids are able move faster, jump higher, play harder [for] longer, then you will have more team success.
“I definitely think we are on the right path but it’ll be up to the kids to decide their own path for the sport,” Kowal said.