Morning Star Staff
The Vernon Panthers will get loads of floor time this senior boys volleyball season. Need a water break? Better grab it on the fly.
The Mighty Six, made up of only five senior members and one junior pick-up, opened their tournament season last weekend at the Penticton Ice Breaker.
The five-man team is led by two Grade 12 athletes – Shelby Hartwig and Nolan Weins – supported up by three Grade 11s – Brayden Damini, Jason Reich and Jaryd Fisher – and backed up by junior Landon Matties.
In order to have a team this year, the Cats, coached by Germano Brunello, they are able to call up a junior player for league games, but they might have to forfeit Zone and Valley championships.
The small Panther pack is working hard to have a great season and stay active and healthy.
Brunello was happy with their play in the Peach City with strong hits and blocks from Hartwig, Damini and Matties, and fantastic digs and tips from Weins and Fisher.
“All six boys played with determination and heart,” said Brunello.
In round-robin action, VSS lost 2-0 (25-16, 25-21) to the Kelowna Owls, then bowed 2-1 (20-25, 25-22 and 8-15) to Pen High before falling 2-1 (27-25, 12-25, 13-15) to the George Elliot Coyotes.
In the championship round, the Panthers faced Pen High again and lost 25-6, 25-18 before brushing back the Fulton Maroons 25-23, 28-26 for seventh place in the eight-team tourney.
Pen High finished fifth after defeating George Elliott in their final match. Lakers coach’ Paul Smith said he was disappointed, saying pressure is an important factor.
“We just haven’t learned how to deal with the pressure,” said Smith, whose team lost to city rivals Princess Margaret Mustangs, who defeated NorKam Saints (Kamloops) for third place.
Against George Elliott, Smith said the Lakers played well.
“We executed, served well, dug some balls,” he said. “They were very confident in their abilities and they went out and played that way.”
The Lakers are making adjustments to a new system as they don’t have any middle blockers.
“It’s a huge learning curve,” he said. “We have to take two players and develop them into middles very quickly.”
While Smith admits there will be growing pains, there is time with tournaments to make strides.
“We do have depth. That is a plus,” said Smith, whose team faced Mt. Boucherie Tuesday night and then open a tournament Friday at Mennonite Educational Institute in Clearbrook.
As for the Mustangs, coach Bo Boxall liked his group’s finish. Opening day wasn’t good, but the Mustangs turned things around Saturday.
“It was nice to see our boys come out and beat NorKam in the bronze medal game after losing to them the day before,” he said.
“Norkam is very scrappy. They aren’t as deep as other AAA teams, but they never quit on any balls. Our guys were forced to stay focused on every point.”
Kelowna defeated the Mt. Boucherie Bears of West Kelowna 2-1 to win the tournament. The Panthers hosted a league game Tuesday night.