17U Prairie Fire 2-3 at tourney

By Dan Falloon, Portage Daily Graphic

The Prairie Fire 17U team had an impressive showing at its home tournament over the weekend.

The team was first in its pool with a 1-1 record, but won a tiebreaker. In the playoff round, it lost a close game to the Assiniboine Aces and another to the Blue Fire team, but they rebounded to down Winman to end the tournament on a high note.

Head coach Carol Stewart said the team was in the thick of things despite sending a young squad onto the floor.

"We have three girls that are in the 17U category and then eight of them are 16U," said Stewart. "We decided to put all the girls together. We talked about development in terms of which girls will be playing for the high school team next year.

"There's no doubt that it's certainly tough to play up when eight are below that age group."

However, with young comes inconsistency, which the team is looking to overcome.

"I would say that we're kind of an up-and-down (team)," said Stewart. "I had a ref tell us 'You play fantastic for five points and then not-so-great for five points'.

"If we can get it all going in the right direction, then I think we have a chance."

Overall, Stewart said the 24-team tournament went well, with plenty of games coming down to the wire.

"Things went quite well," said Stewart. "The teams were all evenly matched.

"One ref said that out of nine matches, eight of them went to three sets."

Next up for the team is the St. Mary's Tournament in Winnipeg this weekend, which will be followed by provincials the next weekend. Stewart said the provincial tournament has only a single tier, meaning the Prairie Fire will be in tough against some of Manitoba's best.

"For rural Manitoba, it is tough to compete against the Winnipeg teams," said Stewart. "We take pretty much whoever is available to us.

"(In Winnipeg), not many girls stick around with the same team. You steal my best player and then you steal another couple of top players. There's lots of that that goes on in Winnipeg, but that's just the way it goes.

"It is what it is, and there's no point in getting too worked up about it."

Stewart said she's seen the team develop immensely throughout the season, and hopes it shows when the Portage Collegiate Institute Saints take to the floor for the 2012-13 campaign.

"When the high school team comes along, they kept their skills up through the spring, and they're at a little higher level than when the last high school season ended," said Stewart. "Our team really is about development.

"Everybody's playing. That's the idea. You want to get as many of the girls involved as possible with some playing time and then go from there."

Twitter: PDGdfalloon

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