Taylor McTavish of the Minnedosa Chancellors digs the ball during a match on Friday at Crocus Plains High School in the Westman girls tournament. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The Vincent Massey Vikings varsity girls volleyball team is trying to use its stature to its advantage.
The Vikings were named the No.1 team in the first provincial high school AAAA rankings of the season, which has put a big target on their backs. Instead of panicking, the squad is trying to use that as motivation to continue improving and working towards a provincial title.
"It gave us motivation to see we could be the top team," said Massey’s Carmen Hutsal, who plays right side and led the team in kills at last weekend’s Top 8 Debate. "Now we want to maintain it, so we’ll work as hard as we can to keep that spot."
While Massey is motivated to stay No.1, other teams are focused on dethroning them, even if they’re not in the AAAA division. Every team at the Westman Varsity Girls Volleyball Tournament, regardless of its division, would like to beat Massey today at Crocus Plains.
That list includes the Minnedosa Chancellors, who would love to get the chance to meet Massey in the playoff round.
"For the girls, it would definitely be an exciting time for them and help them for the rest of the year," Chancellor head coach Dave Uhryniuk said. "It’s good to meet them anywhere, regardless of the outcome."
On Friday, Vincent Massey finished first in its group, winning all six sets to post a 3-0 record.
The Vikings would love to keep their No.1 ranking through the whole season, but they know it won’t be easy. Getting its spot wasn’t easy as Massey finished second in its preliminary round pool at last weekend’s Top 8 Debate — the first tournament of the season — and needed three sets to get by each opponent in the playoff round and take the title.
Vikings head coach Greg Beckwith said that in a team meeting after the tournament, one of his players pointed out that they could just as easily be the 10th-ranked team in the province right now since they only won their first-round playoff match at the Top 8 Debate by two points in the third set.
With so many teams so closely matched up this season, Massey won’t take anything for granted. The squad — which features two returning starters in setter Madison Dyck and libero Tristan Neudorf — plans on outworking teams on defence and having a balanced attack to continue its winning ways.
"Really, the rankings are just a snapshot of how people finished at a tournament," Beckwith said. "We were fortunate enough to win some really close matches last week and it could be entirely and totally different this week and the week after.
"We have to work hard to out-defend teams. We frustrated a lot of teams last weekend. We dug a lot of balls. Just focusing on our defence and continuing to improve on our offence will be important."
The final in the Westman tournament title will be played tonight at Crocus Plains at 6 o’clock.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 22, 2012