It was a conversation Bob Piers was not expecting to have.
“I’ll be quite honest, I did not expect to have you interviewing me,” the Cobequid Educational Centre (CEC) Team One Cougars head coach told the Journal Pioneer after his team repeated as champions of the 45th annual Kensington Intermediate-Senior High School (KISH) Volleyball Extravaganza early Saturday evening. “Seriously, (Friday) night, we lost our first match (against Charlottetown Rural).
“We didn’t play very well and this is a new group of players. The level that they played at in the final was so much higher than what they had played before.
“When we played against (the) Colonel Gray (Colonels) the last match of the round robin (Saturday afternoon), if Colonel Gray wins that match we are driving home. That could have happened very easily because Colonel Gray is a really good team.
“We were lucky, but the girls really played hard and raised their level of play.”
CEC Team One and Charlottetown-based Colonel Gray would meet again in the championship match, which the Cougars won 2-0 (25-14, 25-16).
“We played very well,” assessed Piers. “I thought we attacked the ball well, we serve received well and the only glitch that we had was we missed a lot of serves.
“It’s early in the season and you can get away with that sometimes, but they are going to have to be more consistent serving. Eventually, that will haunt us if we don’t clean that up.”
Colonels head coach Laura Ready said the Cougars “definitely deserved to win that match” while adding “it was a great weekend” for her team.
“I’m really proud of how the girls played,” said Ready. “This is our first weekend of play and we actually have not played any league games yet, so it was fun to see what the girls could do.
“We threw out a lot of different lineups this weekend and it was nice to see each one of our team members contribute to the success we had.”
Part of that success was a 2-1 come-from-behind semifinal win over J.L. Ilsley from Halifax, N.S. After J.L. Ilsley won the first set 25-14 and jumped out to an early lead in Set 2, the Colonels rallied to win the next two sets 25-23 and 15-10.
“Our girls just rallied back,” said Ready. “They knew what they had to do and they got a good bit of momentum from our hitter Morgan White, who was on fire, and she was pretty much unstoppable at the end of the game.”
White’s efforts did not go unnoticed by Piers. He brought her name up when asked about an animated pep talk he gave his players during a timeout in the second set of CEC Team One’s 2-0 (25-15, 25-22) semifinal win over CEC Team Two.
“I did that because they were not giving that same kind of energy when we were playing Team Two that we were when we were playing Colonel Gray (in the round robin),” said Piers. “They had sort of let up and they were tired, but I said, ‘Everybody else is tired, too. All the teams here are tired.’
“That No. 4 for Colonel Gray (White) is a tremendous hitter and she must have hit 50 balls in the (semifinal) match against J.L. Ilsley.”
The two-day tournament, which organizer Richard Younker termed a success, featured 11 teams after Dr. J.H. Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., had to withdraw on Thursday due to unforeseen circumstances.
“It’s always the first tournament of the year and you get to play a lot of volleyball and that is just huge,” added Piers. “To be on the floor and to have that opportunity to get that many touches and plays, it’s great.”
With the Colonels playing seven matches over two days, it allowed Ready and her coaching staff an early chance to assess her young team. Ready pointed out Gray’s core group of players is in Grades 10 and 11.
“I liked how everybody was communicating with each other and every single person on our team contributed,” she added. “Every single person played, every single person had good moments and the team morale was very high this weekend. I like seeing that kind of chemistry early on in the season.”
Ready noted the Colonels will look to improve in all areas as the season progresses.
“Defence will be a big thing for us going forward,” said Ready. “It was nice to see we were the only Island team to make it to the semifinals and the girls are pretty proud of that.”
KISH Volleyball Extravaganza standings following round-robin play:
CEC One 13
Colonel Gray 12
Charlottetown Rural 11
Sydney Academy 5
J.L. Ilsley 11
CEC Two 10
Three Oaks 5