UNITY ‑ Student athletes were elated volleyball season has gone ahead without a hitch. Excitement is ramping up as the senior boys’ division are preparing for regional playdowns, taking place this weekend in Unity.
Eight teams will vie for provincial berths at the tournament. In the mix are Unity, Biggar, Makwa, Lashburn, Kinderlsey, Rosetown, Delisle and Shaunavon.
“Three teams will qualify in addition to Unity, as we automatically advance given, we are hosting provincials," says Coach Ken Parker.
"We will not be taking this free pass lightly, as we have been preparing ourselves all year long to be regional champs and have a high ranking going into the provincial tournament.”
Unity Composite High School is hosting provincial playoffs Nov. 26-27. The competition will consist of 10 teams (three teams from each regional playoff along with Unity). All games will be played in two gyms at UCHS. There will be no opening ceremonies due to COVID precautions. The first round of games begins at noon Friday. The bronze game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday followed by the gold medal game at 5:30 p.m.
“A committee of staff along with planning from the parent committee has prepared for this event since the beginning of the school year," Parker says.
"Approximately 40 student volunteers will assist in minor officiating, collecting gate, being hosts and working the booth."
The volunteers will be augmented by students who will be working the event as part of their curriculum.
"Grade 7s are working on communication skills by interviewing the players and doing profiles on them. Art classes are busy with projects that will serve as gifts for the team as well as decorating the school. Information Processing class is creating the programs and creating a slide show for the screens. And lastly, the Digital Productions class will be assisting Living Sky tech department in live streaming all the games," Parker explains.
Access to these live streams will be available on the SHSAA website (www.shsaa.ca).
UCHS last hosted provincial playoffs in 2010 when the school hosted 4A Girls. That year there were 12 4A girls' teams involved and both gyms were full throughout the entire weekend. The last time UCHS hosted a boys' provincial championship was in 2004.
“That was our first time ever hosting so hopefully we have learned a few things over the years to make this event a success,” says Parker.
This year’s Warrior team consists of 14 players. Two players (Jesse Deck and Hunter Sperle) have prior experience at provincial playoffs when Unity placed fourth in Tisdale in 2019.
"Hopefully their leadership will help settle the nerves in the remaining members of the team," Parker says.
"Last year our season was limited to just practices given the restrictions of the pandemic. I knew that we were likely hosting provincials, so I made sure that the practices were meaningful in preparation for this year. I also have coached these players in junior volleyball, so they have gotten accustomed to my style of game as well has my methods of directing traffic from the sidelines."
Having to share athletes with other sports such as football and hockey can impact the team's success, but Parker says co-operation with other coaches and managers "schedules have all aligned nicely allowing the next two weekends to be devoted to volleyball."
"I am looking at this team as one of the most entertaining teams I have worked with. At a recent tournament in Warman, we became one of the fan favourites even though we finished fourth overall.”
Fans wanting to attend regional playoffs and provincials should know SHSAA requires admission be charged. Guests will also be asked to sign in, sanitize and masks are mandatory while in the school. Those who are not well are asked to stay away, however games will be live streamed for anyone who cannot attend.
“It will be a busy two weeks given the success of our senior girls' team has them competing late in the season as well,” Parker adds.