The winter season of NorWOSSA court sports is now upon us and the Muskie junior and senior girls' volleyball teams have been busy fine-tuning their skills for the competition that lies ahead.
The junior squad will look vastly different this season but is hoping to build on some of the program's recent success.
Fort High heads into this year as the two-time defending NorWOSSA champion and Muskie coach Bob Kowal believes the roster has what it takes to make it three in a row this season.
“With the team being so young, it is going to be a very interesting season for the girls,” he remarked.
“However, the plan is to prepare them to challenge for the NorWOSSA championship. I believe we have enough athletic ability to grasp quickly the core skills of volleyball—passing, setting, attacking, serving and blocking.”
The Muskies only have two returning players this year in Cierra Ogden and Emma Bone, who will be relied upon for leadership.
While the team is very young, Kowal believes that the squad does have some really good athletes who are not afraid of hitting the floor in order to extend a rally.
“As well, Cierra Ogden has the potential to really dominate at the junior level this year,” he predicted.
“She is the only returning starter and has the physical tools to really take over a game. I expect the majority of the offence will run through Cierra, while the rest of the team finds its way.”
Kowal also noted that he is really excited about how fast this team has picked up the defensive and serve-receive system that the team will be implementing this year.
“We need to improve our skills, passing, digging and setting, but the kids are starting to grasp a very complicated defensive system,” he lauded.
“As well, we do have some kids who can really serve aggressively, which will really benefit a young team like this one.”
The Muskies were slated to open the NorWOSSA regular season yesterday in Kenora against the Broncos, with the outcome not known as of press time.
Kowal felt that the team would be successful if it continued to work on its total team game and skill development heading into the match.
“I am a big believer if kids are taught the correct technique, have the opportunity to practice these skills in high volume drills, and are provided ample opportunities to game like practices . . . they'll be successful,” he reasoned.
full of talent
As for the Muskie seniors, they will have an abundance of experienced returning players along with some talented juniors moving up to the senior ranks with a few NorWOSSA championships under their belts.
Muskie coach Duane Roen noted that his squad has ample height, speed and strength and will have a strong presence on the court.
He's also expectant that the Muskies can make a return trip to OFSAA this season.
“This team is filled with skilled players that have many years of competitive volleyball,” he noted.
"Each player is a previous NorWOSSA champion. The veterans will use lessons learned as NWOSSAA champs and OFSAA participants.
“All of the players on the team have played in the Manitoba Volleyball League as the Fort Frances Vipers and have the experience of playing in the Manitoba club provincial championships,” he added.
“A few of the Grade 11 players also traveled to Regina to compete at the Canadian National Volleyball championships in May.”
New to the team this season are Grace Kowal, Aurora Hutton, Becca Jourdain, Keisha DeBungie, Kenna Spuzak and Kaylyn Levesque.
The returnees include Jamie Spencer, Alina Eldridge, Grace Petsnick, Carmen Hebert, Katrina Slomke and Simone Payne.
The senior squad also was slated to open the NorWOSSA regular season in Kenora yesterday, the set scores unavailable as of press time.
“We are trying a variety of scenarios with our team to determine the best lineup,” he told the Times last Thursday about the preparation heading into yesterday's season-opening match against the Broncos.
“Unfortunately we are not going to Dryden this weekend, so we will not have to opportunity to get some team building experience before our first league game.”