June 23rd, 2024

Pandas, Zeniths strike provincial gold


By Dale Woodard on November 30, 2021.

The Magrath Zeniths and Pandas volleyball teams have served up provincial gold medals.

Again.

The Zeniths turned in a golden performance at the Alberta Schools Athletic Association 3A boys provincials last weekend in Westlock, while the Pandas headed down the road to Taber for the 2A provincials, turning in the same result.

The Zeniths downed Fort McMurray Ecole McTavish in the final, while the Pandas downed the Calgary Christian Cougars in the gold medal game.

The two teams did the exact same thing in 2014 when both sides captured provincial titles.

“It’s kind of a neat story. The last time both teams won it together, so it was really cool,” said Zeniths head coach Shane Orr.

The Zeniths gold medal victory did not come easy, said Orr.

“We met some good competition up there in provincials and some great teams that probably did the same thing. We happened to just play a little bit better and happened to get a few extra bounces here and there and it worked out in our favour. It’s been a fun weekend because of that.”

The fiercest competition came in the gold medal from a northern opponent the Zeniths had not seen before.

“We watched them throughout the course of the tournament,” said Orr.

“They were in the other pool and finished first. We knew they were going to be tough going into the match. They had a great right side and a great setter and some really key pieces that made them tough defensively and really tough on serve receive.”

Ecole McTavish won the first set.

“They made it tough on us in the beginning,” said Orr. “They passed extremely well and served better than we did. They passed better than we did and offensively they were better than us. We had to make adjustments on the fly from the initial game plan we had in order to make them be a little more out of system, make it tougher on their setter and put some pressure on them defensively on our side.”

The Zeniths, however, were able to rebound with 25-21,15-7 set wins to clinch the game and the gold.

“We had to make some adjustments in order to beat them,” said Orr.

“Had we not done that I fear we would have been on the other side of the coin because that’s how good they were. Huge credit to the McTavish team because they were a very good opponent.”

Understandably, there was elation on the winning point.

“It was just sheer happiness, excitement and joy, everything every high school boy dreams of who plays high school sports, what sport it is,” said Orr. “To have the dream of winning a provincial title is, I think, more than a lot of them can even bear. They were just super excited.”

The Pandas gold medal game also went to three sets.

“We had played Calgary Christian twice before, in our home tournament and in the Okotoks Foothills Composite Tournament and we beat them both teams. So we were familiar with the team,” said Pandas assistant coach Tabatha Ogden.

The Pandas won the first set 25-23, but Calgary forced the race to 15 with a 25-17 second set win.

“We beat them in the first set and it was a close game. In the second set we kind of let it go for a bit and we didn’t win it. The girls had a bit of a rough go,” said Ogden.

Magrath recovered in time for a close third set, winning 15-13.

“Our Grade 10 player, Bailey Blackmore, served an ace on the game-winning point on her short serve she’s been confident using all year long,” said Ogden. “The girls just jumped for joy and everybody ran out onto the court. There were lots of hugs, lots of tears and lots of celebration.”

The gold medal caps off a season in which the Zeniths went 10-1 in league play and defeated Vauxhall in the week before provincials.

A particular feather in their cap was defeating Red Deer Lindsay Thurber – who won the 4A provincial championship last weekend in Red Deer – at a tournament in Okotoks at the end of October.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Ogden. “I feel like it’s been years in the making for this group of girls. Some of these Grade 12s have been together since Grade 9.”

The Pandas graduate four players following this season.

That includes Hatti Ogden – this year Southern Alberta High School Volleyball League Most Valuable Players, as well as co-captain Abi Payne, Lily Clifton and Kenzie Kutsch.

The Zeniths graduated six seniors, but Orr said a lot of their starting roster are returnees.

“Quite a few of our Grade 11s and Grade 10s played very key roles for us. We’re returning our first team all-star, Kale Orr, he’s a returning Grade 11 this year and another league all-star who is returning Grade 10 who plays middle, Matt Payne and a setter in Seth Hardy. Luke Jacobs and Callen Oviatt are all returnees.

There is also ample grown in the Zeniths JV program, which won the SAHSVL JV title this season.

“Hopefully they come in and fill some of these big shoes the seniors are going to be leaving behind. We hope to put another strong product on the floor next year.”

The SAHSVL announced its individual award winners Monday afternoon.

In addition to Hattie Ogden winning the girls MVP award, her head coach Tara Anderson and Tabatha Ogden won Coaches of the Year for the Senior League.

Named to the girls First Team All-Star Team was Ryann Hagel (Chinook), Preslee Muller (Taber St. Mary’s), Avorie Henderson (Catholic Central), Kaycee Conan (Catholic Central), Brooke Beste (Catholic Central), Jordie Pierson (Raymond) and Abigail Crown (Winston Churchill).

Earning spots on the girls Second Team All-Star team was Bethany Bergen (Coaldale Kate Andrews), Maddie French (LCI), Katie Leavitt (Cardston), Eva Glenn (Chinook), Lexi Gedny (Taber W.R. Myers), Payne (Magrath) and Jessica Babe (Chinook).

Winning the Junior League Coach of the Year was Tammy Dorchak of Chinook.

On the boys side, Chinook’s Jacob Sargent was named this year’s MVP.

Making the boys First Team All-Star was Kale Orr (Magrath), Sean Vanderzee (LCI), Brett Boone (LCI), Hyrum Scott (Cardston), Ben Dyck (Coaldale Kate Andrews), Dario Gentile (Chinook) and Matthew Reiter (Catholic Central).

On the boys Second All-Star team are Nathan Ball (Magrath), Cayl Bos (Medicine Hat), Daylen Wilde (Magrath), Connor Wolsey (Cardston), Kylar Bloomberg (Catholic Central), Aidan Doyle (Chinook), Jole Young (Winston Churchill) and Matt Payne (Magrath).

Orr was named the Senior Coach of the Year and Leon Atwood won the Junior League Coach of the Year Award.

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