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Hot start for 17U Fire 0

Kevin Hirschfield, Portage Daily Graphic

Members of the Prairie Fire 17U volleyball team practice on Tuesday. The team finished second at the Fury tournament over the weekend of March 2-3. (KEVIN HIRSCHFIELD/PORTAGE DAILY GRAPHIC/QMI AGENCY)

Members of the Prairie Fire 17U volleyball team practice on Tuesday. The team finished second at the Fury tournament over the weekend of March 2-3. (KEVIN HIRSCHFIELD/PORTAGE DAILY GRAPHIC/QMI AGENCY)

It’s been a hot start to the season for the 17U Prairie Fire volleyball team.

After a fourth place finish in their first tournament, the team made up of Grade 10 and 11 girls finished in second over the weekend at the Fury tournament in Winnipeg.

“Their attacking was very good and they had strong net play,” said coach Derek Casper of his team.

“The leaders on our team really stepped up, as in the Grade 11 students who are the 17-year-old girls. And we served very well.”

The Fire opened up the tournament on Friday with a 25-21, 25-17 victory over the Fury before a three-set triumph over the Winman team (19-25, 25-21, 15-11).

They started off Saturday with another victory (25-15, 25-21) over the Impact before dropping their first game of the tournament to the Shock (21-25, 16-25).

That gave them a 3-1 round-robin record heading into the playoffs where they won their quarter-final matchup with a 25-22, 25-15 win over the Pirates. It was off to the semifinals where the Fire took on the Yorkton Blitz. After dropping the first set, 19-25, the FIre responded with a 25-18 win in the second set and a 15-7 victory in the final set to advance to the tournament final.

Casper was impressed with the bounce-back effort of his team after dropping the opening set

“They had trouble receiving the ball when they started off,” said Casper.

“They had sat for two hours so it kind of took them a while to get back into the game. Once they started getting on a roll, their level of play increased and they started attacking the ball. They were a lot more confident which brought the team up.”

Casper credited setter Jessica Stewart on leading the charge back.

“(Jessica) really moved the ball well and really knew what was going on and took charge,” Casper said.

They faced the Shock team in the final, who had handed them their only round-robin loss, and once again were unable to come away with a win, losing in straight sets (15-25, 10-25) and settling for second.

“They are a strong team but all tournament we struggled in serve receiving,” said Casper.

“We did not pass well all tournament and that’s where the Shock ended up beating us. We really beat ourselves because we couldn’t pass the ball that well.”

Out of the four sets the Fire lost to the Shock over the weekend, Casper points to the first set of the round-robin game, which was a 21-25 loss, and says the girls could have beaten the Shock had they been on their game.

“We definitely didn’t play as well as we can against them,” he said.

The Fire finished fourth at their season-opening tournament on Feb. 15 and 16 (Vision 18U tournament in Winnipeg) and Casper says they had a real good tournament, despite finishing out of the top three.

“We actually played better in that tournament than this past tournament but just didn’t place as well,” said Casper.

“But they did excellent this last tournament. The girls are growing, more or less, and that’s what we want them to do.”

Next up for the U17 team is a trip to Brandon for the Storm 17/18U tourney in Brandon on Mar. 16 and 17.

Some of the Prairie Fire teams in action this weekend include the 13U Fire and 14U Inferno, Ignite and Blaze, who play in the Bison Tournament in Winnipeg beginning Friday.

The 14U Flash and Burn will compete in the Pirates 14U tournament also beginning Friday in Winnipeg while the 15U Fire will compete in the Bison 16U Tourney on Friday.

kevin.hirschfield@sunmedia.ca

twitter@pdghirsch

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