By Keenan Forstey
The men’s and women’s volleyball teams are back in action this semester. They started the new year off by playing host to the Lakeland Rustlers on Friday, January 10, traveling to Lloydminster on Saturday to play at Lakeland College.
The women played first. Although they struggled to develop a groove in the first two sets, they were able to win the third following the lead of their captain, Tianna Smith, who had 14 kills for the match. In the fourth set, the women were unable to maintain their magic from the third, and the Rustlers were too much. This trend extended into their Saturday night game as the Rustlers swept the Thunder in three straight sets.
The men followed the women’s match on Friday and provided some great volleyball, treating the crowd to a thrilling 5-set match with Brenan Kuffert leading the team in 13 kills. Unfortunately, the men could not find an edge over the Rustlers in the fifth set and lost 15-10. Fast-forward to the Saturday night game and the Thunder did not bring the same level of volleyball with them to Lloydminster as they got swept in three sets.
Having to put the Rustlers behind them and face the Grand Prairie Wolves the following weekend, both teams prepared as much as they could (although nothing can prepare you for a five-hour bus ride into -30C weather). The women were able to shake off the cold and put together a close five-set match. Setter Emma Derbyshire was spreading the love around with 33 assists. After four thrilling sets of volleyball, the women could see the finish line, but the Wolves were in the way and proved to be too much for the Thunder on Friday night. On Saturday, we got to see Avery Plandowski set for the ladies; she played a great game, but it was not enough to beat the Wolves as the Thunder lost Saturday in four sets.
The men had a nail-biter on Friday night against the Wolves, able to stay within three points in every set. Despite Wyatt Turnbull leading the Thunder in kills, we were unable to get the win. During the Saturday game, the Wolves experienced a ferocious attack from Brennan Kuffert and the middle, Carson Hilburn, each having 11 kills in the game. They were able to lead the team to the first win in the second semester, beating the Wolves 3 sets to 1.
The women are currently 2-14 this season with the men at 4-12. Playoffs do not look like a possibility this year for either team as both will need to win the rest of the season. This would mean beating some of the top-ranked teams in the country. That said, even though it seems like a tall order, nothing is impossible in the world of sports. One thing is for sure: both teams will be playing for their senior teammates as this will be their last semester playing for the Thunder.
You can catch your Thunder athletes at their next home game on Friday, February 31, against the U of A Augustana Vikings.