SWEET VICTORY - From left

High energy showdowns for high school volleyball

Two Red Deer high schools are going to have to settle for a split decision after last Thursday night’s City High School Volleyball Championships.

The Notre Dame High School Gymnasium was packed for what was sure to be a pair of high-energy showdowns on Thursday night. On the girls’ side, the visiting Lindsay Thurber Raiders came into the contest up 1-0 over Notre Dame in the best 0f three final series. On the boys’ side, the Notre Dame Cougars came in with a match in hand.

The ladies took to the court first, and right from the get-go Notre Dame was looking like a team with something to prove.

Thurber came out strong in the first set, staying at least three points up on Notre Dame for the duration to take it 25-15.

The Cougars weren’t quite down and out, though.

In the second set they clawed their way to an early two-point lead, which they held on to for the first couple of serving rounds.

Thurber’s offence proved too much for them, though, as they managed to string together three points to take an 11-9 lead.

Notre Dame didn’t give up. They continued to battle and kept it close, at one point tying the score at 15 before their cross-town rivals went on a seven-point scoring run to win the second set 25-16.

“We knew it was going to be a battle. We’ve been battling with Notre Dame and with Hunting Hills all year,” said Lindsay Thurber Coach Kirsten Dezutter after the game.

By the time the third set rolled around, Notre Dame was desperate. They were down to their last 25 points of the season.

It was a back-and-forth affair that saw the ball change hands more than 13 times. Notre Dame took an early 0-2 lead, which they held onto until the score stood at 6-8.

But Thurber would not be denied.

The Raiders stormed into the lead on the shoulders of a four-point scoring run to make it 10-9. From there their defense took over and held the Cougars to just one or two points at a time through the rest of the set. Thurber would add another four-point run on their way to the Zone 4A title and a provincial berth.

Final score: Lindsay Thurber 3, Notre Dame 0.

“To be honest I just believe that this team has a special chemistry and they believed in each other. We’ve been working hard all season and we never lost sight of what our goal was,” Dezutter said, adding the team has been gunning for that provincial spot all season.

“We wanted to be the number one team in Central Alberta.”

The boys’ game was a much less straightforward affair.

Notre Dame came into the game as the odds-on favourites having won the team’s meeting on Tuesday.

But the Raiders weren’t about to back down that easily.

They came out strong, winning the first two sets 21-25 and 16-25 to jump out to an early 2-0 lead, almost forcing a third match.

The Cougars, though, would prove a tougher beast to slay.

“I was expecting a big battle. I wasn’t expecting it to be that kind of battle,” said Notre Dame Head Coach AJ Mahoney after the game.

After the Raiders came flying out to a 6-2 lead to start the third set, Notre Dame responded and came back to tie it up 8-8.

The 6-2 scoring run gave them all the momentum they would need to stay in control through the remainder of the match.

They managed to hold onto the lead to win the third set 25-21 and pull themselves right back into it.

Suddenly the Cougars found themselves back in the thick of it.

“They’re probably one of the most together teams that we’ve had. It was a huge team effort from our bench to the guys on the court,” Mahoney said.

The fourth set was all Cougars. They came out hard and managed to hold onto the lead through the entirety of the set, even managing to weather a late set comeback by the Raiders that made it 24-22 before picking up the final point to send the game to a fifth set.

The final set played out just as dramatically as you would think. The Cougars continued their momentum through and jumped out to an early lead before the Raiders battled back.

Notre Dame proved too strong, though, and ground their way to a close 15-10 win to claim the Zone 4A title.

“I don’t know if I will ever be able to top that game. I’m feeling pretty good,” Mahoney said during the post-game celebrations.

With the wins, the Senior Girls’ Raiders and the Senior Boys’ Cougars advance to the 4A provincials at Jasper Place High School in Edmonton next weekend.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com

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