Indoor volleyball is one of those sports where the NWT will play every other province and territory at the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask., next month.
So it should come as no surprise that the boys team is starting to get down to business ahead of the start of the Games in a few short weeks.
The boys wrapped up the first of two training camps before leaving for Swift Current at St. Pat’s Gymnasium on Sunday and they certainly looked as if they had as full a weekend as possible by the time it was all said and done.
Jeannie Mathison is the team’s head coach and she said they’re coming close to where they need to be.
“We’re only really through one-third of our training for the summer,” she said. “We’ve been practising six days a week since the start of July with the whole team. There’s one more camp on the August long weekend and once we finish that, we should be on pace to being ready for Swift Current.”
Indoor volleyball is U16 with the territories getting to add up to two overage players. It means it’s a young team but it isn’t short on experience as most of the players were part of the Crush boys program this past season.
Something else the team has is plenty of height with players such as Isaac Karstad, Christopher Mathison and Jack Willoughby all in excess of six feet.
“It’s nice to have the height but the other teams we’re going to be playing will have lots of height as well,” said coach Mathison. “I don’t know if we’ll have a competitive advantage because we’ll be playing some big teams.”
In terms of the team’s strengths, coach Mathison said the team is able to dig the ball well and keep it in play along with the serving aspect.
“We do have the offensive capability,” she said. “We worked all weekend on offensive options and speeding up the game. I found they came a really long way on that part of it.”
Quickness is another area where the team is improving, she added.
Like many other teams going to Swift Current, the athletes were given a fitness plan to follow leading up to when the practices began along with group fitness sessions once a week leading up to the daily practices.
“Mostly cardio and strength training, jumping, all that sort of stuff,” said coach Mathison.
Indoor volleyball will be a phase two sport, meaning the boys will get the round-robin underway on Aug. 14 with a game against Alberta The following day will see them play two games versus Saskatchewan and Nunavut, followed by two more games the next day against Yukon and Manitoba. The top four teams following the round-robin will make it into the medal round.
Coach Mathison said finishing top-four in the goal with the hope of playing for at least a bronze medal.
“I would love to spring an upset on one of the provinces,” she said. “I don’t know much about Saskatchewan so I don’t know how strong they will be. Alberta will be very strong because we’ve been moving along with that group since U14 and they just won the national championship and I’m thinking Manitoba will be quite strong as well. With our club team, we’ve been surprising some of the top teams in our first matches so strike while the iron is hot is what I’m hoping for.”