Entering last Saturday’s league championship final, the Zeniths had never beaten powerhouse Chinook, a 4A school ranked No. 3 in the province. Magrath had also never won a league title in its history, a program dating back to 1988.
“It was awesome, just awesome,” said head coach Shane Orr. “We beat them two straight in the final — 28-26 and 25-23.
“My heart was pounding out of my chest.”
A late surge in the first set almost gave an early advantage to Chinook, as Magrath had double set point, up 24-22 before the Coyotes put home three points in a row. Now down 25-24, the Zeniths had to find their own pushback. Magrath managed to tie it at 25-25 before Chinook took another one-point advantage.
This time though, after Magrath tied it the team never looked back, adding another two points to take the set.“It was crazy,” Orr said.
The second set didn’t reach the same heights in score but was equally exciting. After trailing throughout much of the set, falling back as many as four points, the Zeniths fought to a 24-23 lead.
“Chinook called a time out,” Orr said. “All our guys came into the timeout and said, ‘we know who’s going to get the ball.’”
In an effort to keep the ball away from Chinook’s best player, the Zeniths forced the play to one side, set up a double block and executed a perfect stuff to win the tournament. Winning a league championship, against a team that has had their number, is something the team will never forget, Orr said.
The only concern coming from such a historic win for the school’s volleyball program is the idea that an emotional high like that can sometimes lead to a letdown. And Magrath still has a whole lot to play for.
Beating an elite 4A team to win the league title loses some luster if the Zeniths don’t earn one of two available provincial berths this weekend in Medicine Hat at the 3A South Zone tournament. Especially since the team will head in with No. 1 seed.
“We talked to the team at practice (Tuesday) and told them, ‘we’re on the climb still, we haven’t peaked. The way we’re going to deal mentally with this is we’re not going to talk about last weekend anymore.’ ”
Orr says the focus is on this weekend and is confident the team is on the same page. They know the goal all season has been to get back to the provincial tourney and bring home a 3A crown.
“We know what we need to do, we know who we need to beat and we know how we need to play in order to beat those teams,” Orr said. “These kids are really level headed, they’re real good at saying ‘that’s right, and let’s do it.’ ”
Zones begin Friday at Crescent Heights High School in Medicine Hat. The top-ranked Zeniths will open round-robin play against Winston Churchill. Accolades galore Three Zeniths were honoured in end-of-the-year awards, voted on by the coaches. Scott Gieske, Carter Hansen and Tazz Williams were all given first-team all-star recognition, while Gieske was also named league MVP.
For good measure, Orr was also voted coach of the year.