RYLEE MCKINLAY

Mustangs clinch South Zone championship

Victory over George Elliot Coyotes has Mustangs hosting AA Okanagan Valley championship next weekend

The Princess Margaret Mustangs clinched the South Zone volleyball championship with straight sets victories over the George Elliot Coyotes Thursday evening.

The Mustangs won 27-25, 25-15 and 25-18 and coach Tim Haberstock said that was the closest the Coyotes have played them all season.

“They made us work. I didn’t think we passed the ball very well today on our serve receive,” said Haberstock. “I thought we hit very well. When we got the passes up, we crushed a lot of balls. Good game, but not an easy game.”

Haberstock said he was glad his team was tested because, “blowouts don’t do anything for us.”

“I would much rather play a tight game. I’d rather play a tight game cleanly,” he said. “I didn’t think we played that one very clean, but overall, I’m happy with the win.”

In the opening set, the Mustangs built a 17-6 lead, but the Coyotes clawed back only to lose by two. The second and third sets were back-and-forth affairs until the midway mark when the Mustangs pulled away. Haberstock credited that to some good service runs by a couple players.

“Jaquelyn Ford came up with 13 straight serves in the second game. That was huge for us,” he said. “In the third game, Rylee McKinlay came up with some really good serves. When you get those service runs right in the middle, and get a little space, then everybody can relax and get away.”

Coyotes coach Kristina Stefanek said one good server is all it takes to shift a game.

“It’s such a mental game. One good server and a couple of missed serve receives and it’s hard to come back sometimes,” said Stefanek. “Those were the best games that we played against Princess Margaret all year. We have been steadily improving every single time we see them. Princess Margaret is a very strong team this year. We played our best games and that’s all I can ever ask of my team.”

Stefanek was happy with her players’ serves and added that they are playing more aggressive.

“The girls want it a little bit more every time we play,” she said. “Trying to set up a hit every single time.”

McKinlay said the Coyotes put up a good fight, but she liked the way the Mustangs responded.

“We had some good attacks,” she said. “Haley (Lehr) had some really good blocks. Megan Blair had some good hits from the off side and Jaquelyn Ford, her setting was impeccable today.”

In winning the South Zone, the Mustangs will host the Okanagan Valley AA championship this weekend, which Haberstock said was the goal. They will host the eight top AA teams, which is likely to include the Coyotes.

“Right now we’re seeded third,” he said. “We’re going into it with a good shot.”

Junior girls

The Mustangs junior girls volleyball team finished first in the South Central League and have advanced to the Okanagan Valley championship in Kamloops after they dispatched the Princeton Rebels and Pen High Lakers Grade 9 teams last Thursday.

The Mustangs defeated the Lakers 25-17 and 26-24. Mustangs coach Mark McKinlay said his team played well despite being without key player Courtney Alexa. McKinlay said that Alexa rolled her ankle a few weeks ago and hopes she will be ready for the Valley championship.

The tournament features six teams, two from Vernon, Kamloops and Penticton. The top three advance to provincials hosted by South Delta at the end of November.

McKinlay likes where his team is as they are peaking at the right time.

“We have worked a lot on skill development and girls in different positions,” he said. “They have responded well. I think they are playing some of their best volleyball right now.”