Predators settle for second at Cats Classic
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This Predators Volleyball Club team is hard-working and fearless. It plays the right way.
While the group from Grandview, Gilbert Plains, Roblin and Dauphin fell 2-0 (25-22, 26-16) to a red-hot Bandits team in the final of the Cats Classic 16-and-under tournament at the Healthy Living Centre on Sunday, it proved the future is bright.
“We did very good this weekend. We were always having energy. We tried very hard and our team always stays positive,” left side Adel Wiebe after her team’s seventh match in two days. “I know we were all tired and it was about staying focused, ready and having lots of energy all the way through.”
Predators swept their pool with eight straight-set victories and cruised past Northern Stars and Vision Elite Black to reach the final. Bandits snuck past Cats Gold with a 15-13 third set before the host club beat Vision for bronze.
Predators led the first set of the gold-medal match 22-21 before a few acceptable errors turned the tide. This team seemingly attempts more back-row attacks than anyone, something coach Bryce Shewchuk said has been a point of emphasis since 2022.
“We found last year playing 15U that as soon as that ball went up close to the attack line were saying ‘Free ball.’ If we could add that emphasis on still being able to go up and swing, it made such a difference in a lot of points,” Shewchuk said.
It works because Wiebe and right side Montana Jubenvill have proven capable of scoring from anywhere. Opponents have to respect middle blocker Anika Gulenchin, resulting in single-block opportunities for the outsides.
When that happens, don’t expect anything soft rolling over the net.
“My coach always taught me to be as aggressive as I can and hit every ball I can, so that’s what I try and do,” Jubenvill said.
Some young teams will shy away from big attacks in pressure situations and tip the ball safely in play. That’s better than an error, sure, but as they reach higher levels, it just lets an opponent hammer the ball down one’s proverbial throat.
Since the Predators’ lineup is a bit undersized, Shewchuk said its relentless defence sparks the offence. The players, who have been together for three seasons now, certainly work well together and hustle as a team. If one player chases a ball, there’s almost always someone following to keep points alive.
Shewchuk feels the team can compete with the top teams in the province and hopes to prove it at provincials in Niverville on April 21-23. Nationals follow just a few weeks later in Calgary.
“We literally focus a lot on game simulations,” Shewchuk said. “We do a lot of scouting, a lot of video. We focus on who we’re going to see … and finding holes. We’ll use our strengths against their weaknesses.”
Club West Smash and Club West Rage bowed out in the quarterfinals while Cats 15U, Westman Wild and Parkland Vipers fell in the play-in round.
» Twitter: @thomasmfriesen