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First medal win for JV boys' volleyball team in 30 years

Team moves up to seniors next year
Members of the 2019 Ecole Olds High School JV boys' volleyball team are, from left, back row, head coach Jordan Cleland, Cody Gelinas, Tristan Hanna, Tyson Ellis, Lucas Zumbuehl, Logan Grover, Gavin Caskey, Lucas Wilde and assistant coach Josh Zanolli. Front row from left are Drew Bohnet, Davin Markham, Nick Cleland and assistant coach Noah Martens. Submitted photo

OLDS — The École Olds High School JV boys' volleyball team has done something no other boys' volleyball team has done in about 30 years: win a medal – in this case, silver, principal Tom Christensen says.

He says the future looks bright for the Spartans.

“It has been a quick build — they should be fun to watch the next two years,” he wrote in an email.

Head coach Jordan Cleland is also excited about their potential, although next year, the group will be a senior team.

The JV Spartans went undefeated during the south central zones, hosted in Airdrie. They met the Bert Church High School Chargers of Airdrie in the final. That team too, had gone undefeated, leading up to that point.

Unfortunately, in the final, the Chargers emerged as the victors.

“Silver is always a very disappointing medal in the moment and then with each day that passes, you feel better and better about it, that it’s quite an accomplishment,” Cleland said during an interview.

He said Christensen’s point drives home what the team accomplished.

“I guess that kind of makes it feel even better. It was quite an achievement by this group of young men, and as their coach, I’m quite proud of them,” he said.

Cleland noted the south central zone tournament featured teams from some pretty big schools in suburbs around Calgary, including Okotoks, Cochrane and Strathmore in addition to Airdrie, so the competition was tough.

The Spartans and Chargers undertook the same strategy: during the season, they played in some senior varsity tournaments, which gave them a taste of some pretty strong competition.

“I think the fact that we pushed them to a higher level of competition made them a little bit more battle-hardened when we went back to their actual age group,” Cleland said.

He said another reason the Spartans did so well is they’ve played together since their days in middle school.

“We’ve just been working with this group and this group has been working with each other now for four years,” Cleland said.

“They’re getting better technically, but they’re also getting bigger and stronger. Some of them that were 5-7 last season are now 6 feet or 6-1, so they’re growing and getting bigger and stronger. They’re just really kind of geling as a team.”

Cleland said one reason that Bert Church beat the Spartans is that some guys on the Chargers are a little taller than the Spartans.

“They were a very good team. They had a really big block and they had a pretty good attack and they served tough. They were a very well-rounded team from a bigger school, for sure,” he said

Cleland said another factor is the Chargers are more experienced because many of them play club volleyball in addition to volleyball at school.

 “The school season is two-and-a-half to three months long. The club season is five months long.

“So when a kid plays volleyball eight months of the year versus three months of the year, it’s just natural that they’re going to get better faster,” Cleland said.