KENSINGTON – The Kensington Crusaders will play on the national stage.
The Crusaders will compete in the 18-Under Division of the Volleyball Canada national championships in Edmonton that begin this weekend.
“This has been a long process to get to this point,” said Crusaders head coach Richard Younker. “We kind of conceived the idea last year, and a lot of the parents thought this might be a good idea to go to club nationals. . .
“A lot of work has gone into going, the parents have done a tremendous job. It’s a lot of money to fly out to Edmonton with a team and get accommodations, and we have a great group of dedicated girls who work hard.
“It will be an awesome experience for them. Most of them have never played at nationals at this level, and just to get a chance to see the top players in the country will be a tremendous opportunity. It’s going to be future Olympians and national team players.”
The Crusaders are the same team that won the 2017 P.E.I. School Athletic Association Senior AAA Girls Volleyball League championship as the Kensington Intermediate-Senior High School Torchettes in November.
“They are very familiar with one another, and they do play well together,” said Younker. “That is a big advantage we will have.”
Begin play Sunday
The Crusaders, who left early Thursday morning, will practise Saturday before beginning play in Division 3 on Sunday afternoon.
“That is where we should be,” said Younker. “We are a team coming from a small school, we are only taking 10 players. The clubs that go to club nationals draw from thousands of athletes, and they run tryouts and pick from a lot of different schools.”
Younker acknowledged that while it’s tough to set goals not knowing the level of competition, he added, “In Division 3, if we could end up in the top half, that will be pretty good.”
Younker describes the Crusaders as a good blocking and attacking team.
“Those are our two strengths right there, and we can serve really tough,” said Younker. “I believe we will serve maybe as good as any team out there.
“As long as we can play good defence and pass the ball we should be able to compete for sure.”
Kensington Crusaders’ player roster:
Younker, however, did point out playing in nationals will be a much different experience than what the Crusaders are accustomed to. He explained: “It’s such a difference in the venues you play in at nationals. We are used to playing in tournaments with maybe two courts, and we are going to a gym where I think there’s going to be 55 courts.
“It’s a lot different and we were lucky enough this spring to go to Fredericton to play in a big tournament that was in a rink on a sport court that all the major championships are played on. They got a feel for it there, but it is a whole different kettle of fish when you get in a big gym like that. The ball floats different, the floor is different, there’s a lot more noise and it’s quite a different experience for sure.”