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Trojans girls three-peat as provincial champs

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The Gilbert Plains Trojans girls volleyball team captured its third straight provincial title, Nov. 28 to 30, and did it in impressive fashion.
The Trojans did not lose a single game in winning its second straight provincial A varsity championship and third provincial crown in a row. Gilbert Plains also won the JV A/AA provincial title in 2017-18.
At this year’s provincials in Riverton, the Trojans began their trek to the title with a 25-11 and 25-14 win over the Réal-Bérard Jaguars of St. Pierre-Jolys.
Gilbert Plains then beat the host Riverton Patriots, 25-8 and 25-9 and defeated the Grandview Spartans, 25-16 and 25-15. The Trojans finished first place in their pool with a 25-11 and 25-11 win over the Hamiota Huskies.
In the quarterfinals, the Trojans beat the Cartwright Cougars, 25-11 and 25-8, then beat the Miami Marlins in the semifinals, 25-14 and 25-12.
The toughest match of the tournament came in the final, where the Trojans won the championship with a 26-24 and 26-24 win over the Strathclair Skyhawks.
Trojans coach Kelsey Foote said the team had a plan for every game and the girls executed the plan perfectly.
“They had a lot of experience being in that tournament, so they knew exactly what to do, which was so nice,” he said.
Foote noted last year, the Trojans played a lot of close matches in the round-robin and playoffs, but this year that was not the case until the final.
“This year, we just got rolling, right on Thursday. Thursday, we had two good games and then we had two better games on Friday and had our best three games on Saturday. So we consistently got better over the course of the tournament,” he said.
In the final, Gilbert Plains was down 19-23 in the first game before coming back for the win.
Foote said the girls have good focus when in a situation like that.
“We practice a lot of that or try to replicate a lot of those situations as much as we could in practice. And we’ve had lots of tough tournaments over the years that were going into extra points and everything else,” he said.
“But they just kind of find that extra focus when things get to that point and they just served well and attacked well. It’s amazing how solid they get when their backs are against the wall.”
That is simply the Trojans’s experience coming through, while the opposition, Foote said, often tend to tighten up and make mistakes they would not normally make.
“And I just think our girls, their heads are a little bit more clear and they focus on the job at hand and let the tension and the emotion stay out of it.”
Foote was a bit surprised to go through the tournament without losing a game. They only had seven girls for the tournament and did not play with a libeiro for the provincials.
“So there were a few little lineup changes that we made going into provincials just to minimize risk,” he said.
“But they adapted well and they were just really, really solid the whole time.”
For a small school like Gilbert Plains, Foote said, winning three provincials in a row shows that if you have a group of athletes that are passionate, hard working and willing to put the time in, they can be successful.
“Those girls, it’s a pretty special group. You ask them to run through a brick wall and they’ll come back and ask where is the next brick wall. They just work so hard and they just love the training process,” he said.
“I don’t think any small school should ever bow down to a big one just because of school size. That was never a factor in our heads.”
Being a provincial champion again is great, Foote said, adding the feeling never gets old.
And it is especially sweet for the graduating players, who close out their high school volleyball careers as champions.
Grace Bonham, Jaelyn Frykas, Paige Gaber and Mackenzie Zatylny were all named Players of the Game in the round-robin. Frykas and Bonham were also named to the tournament all-star team, while Zatylny was named the Most Valuable Player.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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