By: Scott Schmidt
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Podium finishes are great at any time, but it’s probably fair to suggest Senator Gershaw’s senior boys’ volleyball team has a right to be a little more greedy.
The Bow Island program has taken second place at 1A high school provincials in five of the past nine years, and if there was ever a time to get over the hump, it’s now.
With a trio of top-notch Grade 12s that includes a member of the junior national team, and a veteran group all around, Gershaw is poised to make a serious run at a 1A title.
“We’ve got a pretty good mix this season,” says longtime head coach Andy Phillips. “I’ve got three Grade 12s and five Grade 11s that were all a part of the team that won silver in the province last year. We actually won the Medicine Hat league last year as well.
“We’ve had a little bit of a good run here lately … The boys play together from a young age, so our team chemistry is usually pretty good.”
Led by seniors Thomas Smith, Aidyn Phillips and national team member Chris Byam, the group could well be the strongest on-paper version of Gershaw volleyball Phillips has ever started a season with. It’s a deep roster chock full of players who have made deep runs in the past.
In fact, the team begins its regular season Wednesday against Monsignor McCoy in a rematch of last season’s league championship. The Medicine Hat program is always a good measuring stick for where Gershaw needs to be.
“We actually played them last weekend (at a tournament) in Lethbridge and beat them by a point,” Phillips says. “It was that close.”
It’s hard to know how the upcoming season will unfold, but the Highway 3 foes could be battling for league supremacy once again.
“I haven’t seen Medicine Hat High or Crescent Heights, but yeah, (McCoy) is a good group,” Phillips says, adding thoughts on what his group needs to focus on in their first game. “As long as we pass well, we’ve got the offensive guys to put points away. I’m a big believer in just trying to control our side of the court and then everything else will fall into place.”
Hoping to partake in the most competitive matches possible, the team played in a pair of preseason tournaments against some of the biggest schools in the province — not necessarily for the purpose of victories but instead to push themselves as much as they can.
“We didn’t do a whole lot of winning but we had some competitive matches, which was good for the boys,” Phillips says of an early September event in Edmonton. However, the following weekend in a tournament at Lethbridge, they placed fifth out of 16 teams and took losses only to LCI and Catholic Central, two of the best programs in the region. It’s a promising way for Senator Gershaw to enter the season, and the focus going ahead will be to stay in that mindset.
“One thing I’m really kind of stressing with the boys this year is we’re going to compete hard, during practices and every single night,” Phillips says. “And hopefully that competitive edge is what pushes us over the top.
“We’ve been so close to winning but never been able to come back with the banner.”
Now would be a good time to change that.