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Clippers sunk in quarterfinals at provincials

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There were a lot of close games and tough competition, but the Dauphin Clippers senior boys and girls volleyball teams could not make it past the quarterfinals at the Manitoba High School Athletic Association provincials, this past weekend in Winnipeg.
The Clippers girls opened the tournament, Thursday, with a 17-25 and 16-25 loss to the Neelin Spartans. Sarah Hogue was named Player of the Game for Dauphin. The Clippers followed this up with a 23-25, 25-20 and 13-15 loss to Calvin Christian, with Hannah Gingera earning Player of the Game honours.
Friday’s games began with a 17-25 and 22-25 loss to Linden Christian. Amber Percival was Dauphin’s Player of the Game.
Dauphin then picked up a 25-23 and 25-13 win over the Sanford Sabres, led by Player of the Game, Emma Willcock.
Dauphin, Sanford and Calvin Christian finished the round-robin in a three-way tie at 1-3. After the tie-breaker, the Clippers were awarded third place, Sanford was fourth and Calvin Christian was fifth and eliminated from the tournament.
In the quarterfinals, Saturday, the Clippers fell, 19-25, 25-18 and 13-15 to Virden. Hogue was named Dauphin’s Player of the Game.
Neelin won the provincial title, beating Virden, 25-17 and 25-16. Linden Christian beat Sanford, 25-21, 18-25 and 15-8 to finish third.
Clippers coach Jeremy Love said there was a great deal of parity in the tournament.
As an example, Sanford was ranked ninth entering the tournament and beat the second seed en route to a fourth-place finish.
“So there was a lot of very close matches,” Love said, adding Calvin Christian was ranked fifth coming into the tournament was eliminated after round-robin play.
“Overall, it was a challenging weekend. And the girls competed and played their best volleyball by the end of the tournament, but, unfortunately, we were two points short of making the final four,” Love added.
Love feels the players will learn from this experience, noting there was nothing easy.
“Every match was very, very close. You definitely, as a player and as a coach, learn how to handle those adverse situations when you’re put in them and you have to play them,” he said.
The quarterfinal matches, Love said, are one of the hardest matches to play because of the elimination format.
“The way we had started playing on Thursday, I didn’t know if we were actually going to make the playoffs. We were playing better every match, but we weren’t playing well enough,” he said.
“So, by Saturday, we had to make a lot of lineup changes. We changed a lot of different rotations to try and get us to play better or to score out of system. So we kind of peaked. But it was a different provincials than I’ve ever actually participated in.”
Overall, it was a good year for the girls. They were able to deal with the adversity of injuries to key players throughout the season, Love said.
“It was a new situation for myself and the girls in what I expected from them and what my expectations were. And overall, they competed and bought into it,” he added.
“Whenever you lose a game in the third set by two points, you know that it could go either way. And if the two points went in our favour, you’d be feeling different about the season.”
The Clippers boys began their tournament on Thursday, with an 18-25 and 20-25 loss to Calvin Christian, followed by a 25-13 and 25-22 win over Landmark.
J.J. Love was the Player of the Game for Dauphin in both matches.
Friday began with a 17-25 and 12-25 loss to Westgate, with Ethan Thacker earning Player of the Game recognition.
Dauphin ended the round-robin with a 25-23 and 25-21 win over Altona’s W.C. Miller Aces. Love was Dauphin’s Player of the Game for the third time.
Like the girls, the boys finished the round-robin in a three-way tie with Altona and Calvin Christian and were awarded fourth place after the tie-breaker.
This put the boys in a quarterfinal match against Linden Christian, where the Clippers were eliminated, 15-25 and 23-25.
For the fourth time in the tournament, Love was named Dauphin’s Player of the Game. He would later be voted winner of the Player’s Choicer Award by his fellow competitors.
Linden Christian went on to win the provincial crown, beating Niverville in the final, 25-16 and 26-24. Neelin finished third with a 26-24 and 25-21 win over Calvin Christian.
Clippers coach Taylor Schmidt noted the Clippers were in a tough pool and there were no easy matches.
“I was really pleased with how the boys played. Our first goal was to give ourselves an opportunity on Saturday to be there for the playoffs,” he said.
The Clippers, he added, had to work pretty hard to beat Landmark and Altona, which turned out to be important wins after Dauphin finished in a three-way tie.
“The boys really played well. We probably played some our best volleyball the whole year and had to work for every point and work for every set. I was really happy with how we played,” he said.
It is small consolation, but Schmidt said it is nice to know the team that knocked you out is the team that goes on to win it. That was the case with the Clippers.
Schmidt said the Clippers came out flat against Linden Christian and were disappointed they did not get the opportunity to play the third set.
“They’re a real consistent team. They played consistent volleyball the whole weekend,” he said, adding the Clippers regrouped for the second set and went on a roll, but fell short in the end.
“If anything, we were disappointed that we just didn’t get that shot, didn’t force that game three. Who knows what would have happened?” Schmidt said.
Overall, it was a good season for the boys.
“All the hard work we did all year in practice. We had quite a few injuries and our multi-sport athletes. It was a real whole team effort this year. A lot of players stepping up in positions they haven’t played before. But they were willing to step in there and play that spot for the greater good of the team,” Schmidt said.
“It nice to say when provincials are done, regardless of what happened, is that we were playing our best volleyball of the season at provincials. That’s a nice feeling to finish the season off with.”
Schmidt carried a roster of 15 players and will lose five to graduation, leaving a good nucleus to build around next season.
“The environment and the level of volleyball and the experience that the rest of the guys had at the tournament, they now see what it looks like and sounds like and feels like, so that next year, they’re the next guys up. So I hope that experience sticks with them and they are going to know what it takes to play at provincials.”

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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