Make no mistake about it, the Vanier Spirits are heading into the Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association 4A girls provincial volleyball championship on an absolute roll.
After finishing off their regular season with a 6-0 record, the Spirits put together a perfect run through the regional playdowns last weekend to earn the top seed for provincials and then followed up with a victory over the Peacock Toilers in the city final on Tuesday night.
Just win after win after win, at the time of season when that’s exactly what you want to be doing.
Thing is, it only gets more difficult from here. And the Spirits themselves will be the first to tell you they’ll have to take their game to another level in order to have a shot at winning their first provincial title since 2019.
“It feels really good to win regionals and cities and I think that gives us a good mindset going into provincials this weekend,” said Vanier captain Ava Gibbs shortly after their five-set barnburner in the city final. “It’s going to take dedication and hard work and paying off everything we’ve done at practice this season… we know we have to go in this to win, we’ve won a lot of games this season and if we can keep that going, it’ll be a good weekend.”
Vanier opens their tournament a 12 p.m. Friday against Melville before taking on Lumsden at 2 p.m., and Humboldt at 5 p.m. followed by their final round robin game at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Spirits have a fair amount of familiarity with their opponents, having seen six of the 10 teams at one point or another this season, but there remain quite a few unknowns, especially when it comes to the biggest tournament of the year.
“The northern teams we haven’t played yet, and the southern teams we’ve done well against, but we know we’re still going to be in some tough games,” said Vanier coach Aly Bell. “That’ll be the challenge, to come out fighting and play as well as can right from the start.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have plenty of wins under their belt heading into their opening game, something the Spirits are hoping will be a sign of things to come.
“It’s huge,” Bell said of how the run of success helps them. “We just have to make sure we don’t get to cocky or too overconfident and keep working on what we need to work on.”
The last three 4A girls provincial tournaments have seen plenty of success for Moose Jaw teams, with Vanier winning in 2019 followed by Peacock claiming gold and Central losing bronze in 2021. Vanier also reached the quarter-final last season, while the Cyclones missed the playoff round by a single win.
The top four teams from each round robin pool advance to the quarter-finals at 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. at Peacock and Vanier, followed by the semifinals at 3 p.m., bronze medal game at 4:30 p.m. and gold medal game at 5:30 p.m., with the latter two games at Vanier.