The Cats Gold volleyball team nearly lived up to its name at the 16-and-under girls’ provincial club volleyball championship on the weekend.
The squad, made up of players from all over Westman and coached by Killarney’s Dean Kachur, made it all the way to Sunday’s final at the Healthy Living Centre and held a 23-20 lead in the opening set. However, the team couldn’t finish off the Winnipeg-based Shock and fell 2-0 (26-24, 25-15). Despite coming away with silver medals — the first medal ever won in any age group at provincials by a Cats Volleyball Club team, which is run by the Brandon University Bobcats — the players were quite pleased.
"It’s pretty awesome," said Carmen Ross, who had six kills and three blocks in the final for Cats Gold. "Our team was kind of separated at the beginning of the season because we had so many conflicts with basketball and hockey, so our team just started practising as a whole three weeks ago. To come in and work together and come out second is a pretty awesome feeling."
Cats Gold came into provincials as the sixth seed and finished second in their preliminary-round pool with a 2-1 record. They got hot after that and rolled through the competition until they faced club rival Cats Blue in the semifinals.
Cats Blue beat Gold in their two previous meetings during the season, but Gold took the semifinal’s marathon first set 34-32 and then the second 25-21 to reach the final.
Cats Gold looked good early in the first set, but Ross, a 5-foot-10 left side from Virden, felt the team just lost its composure as the players tried to close it out.
"We were up, and I think we all hoped that we were going to win this, so we didn’t execute as well as we should have," she said. "Then it was a big shock to lose after all that. That definitely brought us down a lot and it took us a while to get back into the groove, and I’m not sure we even got into the groove."
Isabelle King, a middle from Forrest, added two blocks and a kill for Cats Gold in the final.
Ross was named a tournament all-star along with teammate Kenzie Robinson, who’s from Hamiota. Shoal Lake’s Jenna Rupa, who plays for Cats Blue, was also named to the all-star team.
Cats Blue fell 2-0 (26-24, 25-14) to the Selkirk Royals in the third-place match. Meanwhile, the Russell-based Brash placed 11th and Cats White finished in 18th place.
Cats Gold players feel like they made a statement at provincials that they’re a much better team than most thought, and they hope they can do that again at the Canada West Open, which runs from May 17-19 in Calgary.
"Now we’ve seen a lot of good teams and we’ve seen what we can do against them," Ross said. "I think our team is going to be really ready to go and play against teams from other provinces just to prove that even though we lost in the finals, we’re still one of the top teams in the west."