The goal each match is to get better and so far both the Rainy River Owl junior and senior boys' volleyball teams have been able to do that.
The juniors defeated the Red Lake Rams 3-0 last Thursday afternoon in their NorWOSSA 'A' home-opener at RRHS to see their league record improve to 2-3.
“My kids, the biggest thing was I needed them to calm down because we lost to St. Thomas Aquinas in the tiebreak set 29-27 just yesterday, so today was about recovering and learning from that,” said first-year Owls' coach Tyson Grinsell after Thursday's win at home.
"Which they did. They came out relaxed, passed the ball well, hit the ball well, and played like they needed to play.
The Owls began the week with a 3-0 sweep of the host Rams last Tuesday and followed that up with a hard-fought 2-1 setback to the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints in Kenora on Wednesday.
“The game was similar on Tuesday, like we won all three sets on Tuesday too,” said Grinsell when comparing the efforts in both matches against the Rams last week.
"I was just impressed with how they keep getting better every game.
“So, it's like we have a little bit of an uphill battle now to make playoffs,” he conceded.
“But we're becoming the team to beat, so I'd say that. Like, they keep getting better and better.”
Rainy River then competed at the Dryden Eagles' home tournament held Friday and Saturday, where it came away with a respectable 2-1-1 record.
The Owls dumped the La Vérendrye Vipers 2-0 in their opening match by set scores of 25-21 and 25-19.
Then after battling to a split with the Muskies, the squad defeated the host Eagles in straight sets.
The Owls then ended tourney play on Saturday with a 2-1 loss to the Sioux Lookout Warriors in the quarterfinals. After dropping the first set 25-21, Rainy River won the second set 30-29 (there was a 30-point cap) but dropped the third-and-deciding set to lose the match.
“My kids did a really great job in the tournament in Dryden on the weekend,” lauded Grinsell.
"We travelled there with six players and one of my players' little brother played with us also, he's in Grade 7.
“We split sets against Fort Frances. The kids dominated the first set and then we lost a closer second set,” he recalled.
"But we outscored them overall in the match. Later that night, we beat Dryden in two straight sets. Keep in mind that Fort Frances and Dryden are both 'AA' teams, and Rainy River is single 'A'.
“I was very happy with how my kids played,” he enthused.
“Sioux Lookout is undefeated in their 'AA' league, so the boys played really well and I was happy with their performance against a strong team.”
As for the Owls' seniors, they also dispatched the visiting Rams by a 3-0 count last Thursday at RRHS to see their NorWOSSA record improve to 3-2.
The Owls kicked off the week last Tuesday with a back-and-forth 3-2 win over the Rams before then falling 3-0 to the host Saints on Wednesday.
“For the seniors, that's the best game they played all season,” Grinsell, who was filling in for regular Owls' coach Guy Arpin, said after Thursday's home win against the Rams.
“The seniors won in five [on Tuesday] so Red Lake took two sets, but they did way better today.”
Both Owl volleyball squads were slated to resume action yesterday against the visiting Saints, with the outcomes not known as of press time.
The Owls then are slated to host the Pelican Falls Timberwolves this afternoon before hitting the road once again to take on the Atikokan Voyageurs tomorrow.
Rainy River then will welcome the Ignace Falcons to RRHS next Monday (Oct. 28) before concluding the regular season with another home game against the Voyageurs on Halloween.
“Next week our focus is to use our court, it helps that we're at home in our gym that we practice in all the time,” Grinsell reasoned about this week's matches.
"So that's a little bit of an advantage. So we have those games, that's Tuesday and Wednesday, and then when we go to Atikokan on Thursday, I worked in Atikokan the last three years and that was the team that I coached.
“So I'm playing my old team, so I'm using that to my advantage too,” he grinned.
“I'm walking in there and taking the 'W' at my old school.”