The Estevan South East Giants reached the final at the provincial Under-18 volleyball championship, but came up two points short of winning the gold medal.
Estevan was the top team for much of the tournament. They opened with a victory over the Lloydminster Volleyball Club Cannons, and then they upended the Melfort Storm, the Swift Current Junior Sundogs and Prince Albert Smashing Bananas' under-16 team to finish the round-robin with a 4-0 record.
The Giants didn't lose a set in the round-robin.
The Giants defeated the Smashing Bananas' under-18 team 2-0 (27-25 and 25-19) in the page playoff game, which pitted the first place teams from each round robin-robin pool, and then they defeated the Saskatoon Junior Huskies 2-0 (29-27 and 25-20) in the semi-final round.
“The semi-final was by far our best game,” said head coach Daniel Betnar. “We played a Saskatoon team with a lot of provincial team players, and beat them in two (straight sets).”
But in the final against the Smashing Bananas under-18 squad, the Giants lost 2-1 (24-26, 25-19 and 15-13). Estevan fell behind 8-1 in the third set, fought back to tie it at 13-13, but then surrendered the final two points.
“We played really, really well up until the finals,” said Betnar.
Seven different communities are represented on the Giants. Not only do they have players from Estevan, there are athletes from Oxbow, Carnduff, Lampman, Manor, Montmartre and Moose Jaw. Betnar said that he and assistant coach Nathan Johnson regard the Giants as one of the most talented teams they have ever been associated with.
“We have five or six players who are going to go on to play post-secondary somewhere,” said Betnar.
Despite the loss to the Smashing Bananas in the provincial final, it's been a strong year for the Giants, he said, and the players have been fine ambassadors for the region.
The Giants will compete at the Canadian Open tournament from May 9 to 11 in Edmonton. Betnar said there will be more than 50 times at nationals, and the Giants are looking forward to playing some of Canada's best teams.