KENSINGTON – The Kensington Torchettes’ title defence begins in earnest at a familiar event this weekend.
The 2017 P.E.I. School Athletic Association Senior AAA Girls Volleyball League champions will kick off the 2018 campaign by hosting the 44th annual Kensington Intermediate-Senior High School Volleyball Extravaganza.
“We’ve been working hard, and have had practices every day after school for at least an hour and a half,” said the Torchettes’ Cassandra MacLeod, a Grade 12 middle player from Park Corner. “Everybody is putting their time in. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we have a lot of good teams coming over and we’re excited.”
This year’s tournament features 13 entries after two dropped out at the last minute.
“It’s an odd number for a tournament,” admitted veteran Torchettes head coach and tournament organizer Richard Younker. “Every team is going to get four matches in the round robin, and then playoffs after that. . .
“The teams we have are good teams. I’m really, really happy with the quality we have.”
Senior Elizabeth Burt, who is listed on the team roster as a left-side player, is looking forward to starting the new season.
“We are looking to see what our competition is going to be like for the regular season this year,” said Burt, who’s from Margate. “It will be nice to see how we play, and what things we need to improve on.”
Burt said it is a different style of volleyball when playing Nova Scotia teams.
“They run different things and with teams from away we have to learn different defences on the court,” she added.
Although it’s still early, MacLeod likes what she’s seen early.
“We lost two starters from last year (Jillian Ferguson and Hillary Bernard), but it looks like our team is still pretty strong,” continued MacLeod. “We are all strong in our own ways, and when we come together we are a really strong team and have a lot of fun.”
The Torchettes’ roster features lot of experience, including five Grade 12s.
“All of them played significant minutes,” emphasized Younker. “They’ve been through a lot of battles, they’ve been to two straight (provincial) finals, we’ve been in four or five tournament finals, we’ve won some tournaments, we won provincials last year and they know what it takes to win. It’s exciting to have that kind of experience back.”
Younker also likes the team’s depth.
“We have a couple of good Grade 11s who are ready to step in and play, and Grade 10s coming up from junior high who have a lot of potential and can step in and help us right away,” he said. “We have a girl from Quebec who is here on an exchange, and she’s our 10th player.”
Younker described the Torchettes as a “tall” team, which is something he hopes to capitalize on.
“It does make it a lot easier when you have some height at the net,” continued Younker. “Our blocking should be good, we have some good attacking players, our serving should be very good. For us, our success will boil down to our passing and defence. If we can pass and defend well we will be pretty good.”
One thing, in particular, Younker is stressing to his players is preparation and intensity.
“I’ve always felt we’ve had a bullseye anyway because of the reputation of the school being a volleyball school, with what (longtime athletic director and volleyball coach) John Bowness did with the program,” said Younker. “This year, there’s definitely going to be a bullseye on us.
“I told the girls that we are not going to get the B effort of all the teams we play.
“Every team is going to play us with their A game. If we take a night off and come with our B or C game, we are in trouble.”
Although it’s a short but busy volleyball season, Younker said coaches and athletes must remember it is a process leading up to provincials in November.
"If your team is no better in November than they are right now, you are probably not going to win, no matter how good you are in September,” said Younker. “All the teams have to get better, and that involves players buying into working hard in practice and taking care of themselves during the season and listening to their coaches.
“From a coaching standpoint, I have to look at the other teams and what they do and tailor our practices and game plans to try and combat that, look at our own talent and how do I maximize all of these players so we are at our best?”
KISH Volleyball Extravaganza pools:
Cobequid Education Centre (CEC) One
Host Team Roster
Kensington Torchettes’ 10-player roster:
Elizabeth Burt (left side,.
Cassandra MacLeod, middle.
Hillary MacLean, setter.
Emily MacDonald, right side.
Keanna Reid, left side.
Maddy Rogers, middle.
Nicole Boucher, left side.
Megan MacDonald, left side/right side.
Hillary Murray, middle.
Leonie Goupil, left side.
Need to Know
KISH Volleyball Extravaganza facts:
The tournament features 13 teams – eight from P.E.I. and five from Nova Scotia. The breakdown of P.E.I. teams include AAA squads Kensington, Three Oaks, Westisle, Bluefield, Charlottetown Rural, Colonel Gray and Montague along with the Kinkora senior A team. The Nova Scotia teams are Cobequid Education Centre (CEC) One and CEC Two from Truro; Parkview from Bridgewater; Halifax West, and Sydney Academy.
The Torchettes will play Halifax West in the tournament opener before the school on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Matches will be played at the Kensington Intermediate-Senior High School (KISH) and Kinkora Regional High School gymnasiums. Match times in Kinkora are Friday at 7, 8 and 9 p.m., and Saturday at 9, 10 and 11 a.m.
The top eight teams will advance to the playoff round, which will feature all matches played at KISH. The quarter-finals will go at 2 and 3 p.m., followed by the semifinals at 4 p.m., and the medal matches at 5 p.m.
Friday’s match times are 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m., with Saturday’s schedule beginning at 9 a.m.
CEC One defeated KISH in last year’s final.