LAKELAND – With club volleyball season winding down, the local Rhinos Volleyball Club had already achieved success in, and leading up to, the Volleyball Alberta Provincial tournaments.
The first team to play in their age bracket’s Provincial Championships came out with a first-place finish. The 13U Black Rhinos team earned gold with a perfect 7-0 record on April 24 in Calgary.
“There is ‘finishing strong,’ then there is what our Baby Rhinos did,” stated Rhinos’ Club President Scott Cameron.
“Competing in their final event of the year, Provincials, the 13U ladies painted an absolute masterpiece, going a perfect 7-0 to capture the Division II crown and bring a championship banner home for our club.”
The Provincial championship was the first and only tournament where all north and south teams would compete together within that age bracket.
A nineth place finish at Premier 2 North had narrowly edged the 13U Rhinos down to the Division II bracket for the provincial tournament.
Following the team’s first place finish in Division II, Cameron said, “They made sure to remind the field that they indeed deserved to be a top seed in Calgary.”
Competing in Provincials on April 24 in Edmonton, the 14U Black Rhinos saw a mixed bag of wins and losses.
“Slotted into Division III, the girls were looking to improve on their fifth-place finish at Premier 3 and potentially take a run at the medal podium,” expressed Cameron.
While the 14U team saw several close matches, they fell short in four out of three games.
The team finished their Division III Provincial tournament in 12th place.
“They’ll spend the next few weeks working on cultivating that killer instinct required to win close games, then travel to Richmond, B.C., for 14U Nationals on May 13-15,” said Cameron, earlier in the month.
The Rhinos 15U teams wrapped up their Provincial Championships in Calgary with a big feat on May 8.
“Slotted into Division IV, they were looking to end their VA season on a high note – and they did all that and more, advancing to the gold medal game,” recounted Cameron.
In the third set of the gold medal game, the Rhino’s White team trailed 7-2 out of the gate. “And in a race to 15 points, they ran out of time, succumbing by a score of 15-7 and settling for silver,” he described.
“With a 5-2 record – not to mention climbing eight spots in the Division 4 ranking – it was a perfect finish to the VA season for our White ladies.”
During the second weekend of May, the Rhinos 15U Black team also hit the courts in Calgary.
Positioned in Division I, the Black team was up against the stiffest competition in the province for their age bracket.
“While disappointed to be heading to the consolation side for Sunday play, it was a performance that the coaching staff was proud of, with the girls learning how to elevate and compete in big pressure moments,” said Cameron.
The Rhinos Black crew finished the weekend 14th in Division I among a field of 80 teams in more than five divisions.
Both Rhinos 15U teams will head to Nationals in Edmonton on May 19-21.
Also playing over the May 7-8 weekend, the Rhinos 16U teams did not achieve the Provincial finishes they had hoped for.
Taking to the volleyball courts in Division I, the 16U Black team finished in 12th place.
Competing in Division II, the Rhinos 16U White finished in 14th place.
“After slugging it out in a combined 17U/18U division all year, (the) Provincial Championship would be the first opportunity for our 17U Black ladies to play a full event against their age-specific counterparts,” said Cameron.
Over the April 30 weekend, the 17U Black team headed to Calgary to take a run at the Division I podium.
“But even with the 18Us now out of the picture, they were quickly reminded that there is a whole lot of parity amongst the top eight teams at 17U,” he added.
The 17U ladies pulled out a sixth-place finish among a 40-team field. This finish will hold the team’s Division I position heading into Nationals.
“If there was ever a time to pitch your biggest performance of the year, Provincials would be a pretty great place to do it. And our 18U Black ladies did just that – exhibiting some crunch-time killer instinct on route to a huge crossover upset and their best tournament finish of the year,” boasted Cameron.
Competing in 18U Provincial Championships in Calgary during the first week of May, the Rhinos’ Black 18U ladies entered the draw as the 12th seed in the 16-team Division I bracket, explained the Rhinos’ president.
"They kicked in the door in pool play, knocking off all three of their higher seeded opponents.”
He continued, “The sixth-place finish is their best result of the season and will position them well for Nationals."
The Rhinos’ 18U White team played out their Provincial Championships in Division II.
Coming up against stiff competition, the White team managed a 2-5 record in the tournament.
The White crew finished in 14th place in Division II and 30th overall among a 47-team 18U field. They too will be in Edmonton for Nationals.
Out of the eight Rhinos teams eligible to participate in Nationals, seven were competing in the championship tournaments that took place over the weekend.
Only one 16U team has opted out of the season's National tournament for age brackets 14U and up.
This year, Edmonton was selected to host Nationals for 15U through to 18U, while 14U teams will head to Richmond B.C. to play in the Olympic Oval.