By Greg Price
Nerves and injuries caught up with the St. Mary’s Celtics boys volleyball team, as the squad was unable to escape pool play at 2A boys volleyball provincials in Black Diamond this past week.
The Celtics started off its provincial journey against St. Joseph from Whitecourt last Thursday and lost 25-22, 21-25, 16-18.
“We were right in the mix, but we came out fairly nervous on the Thursday. We had trouble putting the ball away and did some unforced errors and it made for a heartbreaker in three sets,” said Derry Kolody, head coach of the St. Mary’s Celtics boys volleyball team. “It was one of those matches where the nerves came in and we couldn’t settle down where we played tight. It was one of those matches we probably wanted back.”
The Celtics next match was on Friday which St. Mary’s had to rally from a set back to win 22-25, 25-23, 15-3 against West Island College.
“We were able to bounce back by wiping that last match away and getting prepared to play the next day,” said Kolody, adding, unfortunately, the Celtics lost one of its middles in Tyson Phillips four points into the match to injury. “He was one of my big hitters in the middle, so we had to adjust and make a bunch of changes in how we do things, like moving my setter Mason (Muller) to the middle position. We battled and found a way to win.”
The Celtics looked like they were going to win their third match against Ecole Plamondon, only to fade.
“We were up 23-20 both games and then lost both games by two points,” said Kolody of the 26-28, 23-25 games.
Next up was powerhouse CACHS, and eventual provincial gold-medal winners, to which the Celtics fell 19-25, 20-25.
“That was the best performance we had against them this season,” said Kolody. “At the end of Friday, we needed a couple of teams to lose where we could limp into the playoffs with a win in our final (pool) match.”
That final pool match was against host Black Diamond where the Celtics were able to beat Oilfields 25-16, 25-22 on Saturday in front of a packed gym to force some tie-breaking formulas. It made for a three-way tie for third place in the pool with the Celtics having the best record head to head with each other.
“West Island College and Black Diamond had to play each other (one set) and then the winner played us to see who made playoffs,” said Kolody.
It made for back-to-back matches against Black Diamond in a one-set takes all for the right to go to playoffs.
The Celtics looked like they were well on their way to the playoffs with a 15-9 game lead when the injury bug bit the Celtics again at a crucial time.
“I lost my other big gun in Kaleb Muller. He was in the middle of a hit and got taken out by his own player as he landed awkwardly,” said Kolody. “We lost some momentum and at the end of the day we lost 22-25.”
It marked the end of a still very successful season for the Celtics who were able to earn a south zone banner for the school along with other prominent tournament victories.
“It was a true test of character for the boys that I was most proud of at provincials. We were down and out at times, and they never gave up, like Kaleb coming back from his injury and still trying to swing away,” said Kolody. “All the boys found ways to go out there and battle even though the cards were stacked against us at times. There was no quit to them.”
The Celtics now look towards next year where St. Mary’s will be hosting 2A boys volleyball provincials in 2017.
“It will be the Grade 11s third straight provincial experience and that makes it extra special for me since I’ve been with these kids since Grade 6.”