Earl Haig’s senior girls volleyball squad broke a streak, but not one they wanted to, on Nov. 29 against Victoria Park.
The Blue and White, finalists in last year’s AAAA championships, dropped a hard-fought battle 2-1 (23-25, 25-22, 13-15) for the first loss in Darya Abdollahi’s four years of play at the school with both the juniors and seniors.
“It’s kind of shocking, but we came off a weekend without practising,” she said. “So we were cold today.”
With the new season also comes a new coach. Former skipper Morris Sze is busy with a new addition to his family, so Jeanne Chew has stepped into his shoes.
“I kind of feel a little bit of stress but at the same time the players have moved on to university,” she said. “So partly I feel it’s a newish team, it’s a building year.
“That’s why I’m quite okay to take the team over from Morris, without the same team and the same kind of expectations.”
Returnees to the starting six-pack are Abdollahi and Christine Poon. But Chew says she’s observed potential in some of the grade 11s.
Anna Kostic in particular has stood out, as the middle has played big alongside Abdollahi.
“She’s new and maybe not as aggressive but she’s got potential and at the net she’s great,” Chew said.
On the other side of the court, Victoria Park coach Peter Lohasz, a former A.Y. Jackson coach has his own checks and balances to make.
“It’s those little bits of communication and knowing that it’s this person who gets the ball,” he said. “It’s that trust factor that comes with them working together.
“We’re looking to work on our consistency because in the second set we were up and we gave them eight of ten points and that just killed us.”
Working well on the ball, and improving as the game progressed were setter Jamie Ng, middle Wenzie Haw and the service of Hannah Koscis.
“(Koscis’) really improved on her serving and put a lot of pressure, scoring some valuable points at 8 all or 11 all that took us up to 13,” he said. “For Hannah that’s a spot thing. A little bit of a clutch moment where she gave us some momentum.”
Still, beating the city’s second best AAAA squad from last season was a portent of things to come for the Panthers.
“When the crunch was there, we were putting the pressure on them,” Lohasz said. “I think as the game went on we played our positions a little bit better and we communicated better.
“So our defence became better and we were digging things that were dropping in the first set.”
In response to that pressure, Chew said she got her charges to work on team unity.
“It’s our first game and I think mainly our starting line-up needs to get used to their positions and getting used to playing with each other,” she said. “People don’t know each other’s strengths.
“So if the ball comes and it’s between two players, generally if you’ve been playing with someone for a while you know their strengths.”
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