Ten elementary schools will vie for top honours at the annual Region 1 Bantam volleyball championships this Saturday at Fort Frances High School.
But more importantly, the weekend will be another indication of how much interest the sport has generated among grade seven/eight students.
“We’ve seen a tremendous improvement and interest in all our floor teams, particularly volleyball,” said Brian Love, who’s organized the tourney for the past 14 year.
“I think that if you take a look at teams the high school has produced, there’s proof of that,” he added.
Schools set to compete here include Robert Moore and St. Francis in Fort Frances, and Crossroads (Devlin), Mine Centre, Riverview (Rainy River), Sturgeon Creek, Wabigoon (Dryden), White-fish Bay, Atikokan High School, and St. Patrick’s (Atikokan).
“I would say I’m expecting my team to have a lot of fun and do as well as they can,” said Darcy Jack, who coached the Sturgeon Creek grade seven/eight team to the gold medal during an invitational tournament at Crossroads last Saturday.
Games will begin at 9 a.m. in both the small and large gyms. Teams will play a round-robin format, with the top four teams qualifying for the playoffs in the boys’ and girls’ divisions.
“The different venues and the opportunity to play against different schools is a great learning opportunity for the kids—and a lot of fun,” said Love.
Teams finding success at this tournament have moved on to compete at the Eastern Ontario Bantam championships in January. Love said a real committed and highly-skilled team will make the move there.
“You’ve got to have a team that’s really strong, technically strong,” said Love, who is principal at Crossroads. “When you go east, you have elementary schools which are bigger than our high schools so there’s a lot of talent to choose from.”
The Mine Centre girls’ team represented the district at that tournament last year, finishing eighth overall.
The regional championships are another in a series of weekly volleyball tournaments around the area. In addition to the Crossroads tournament last week, Robert Moore hosted its annual Gilson Classic for grade eight boys and girls earlier this month.