A tournament victory in early February was the turning point for Etobicoke Rams senior girls volleyball.
On the bubble for most of their season, Rams co-captains Catherine Bell at power and middle Jelena Sarajlic say a gold at the Victory Volleyball Tournament boosted the 9-girl roster’s confidence.
“We hadn’t really won any medals before that and we hadn’t actually even gotten that many victories but at the tournament — we did lose to one team who didn’t end up being in the finals,” Sarajlic said.
The turnaround is exemplary of Etobicoke’s coaching staff and their dedication to volleyball.
Head coach Kelly Currie has taken four teams to city finals in four years. Though he jokes about not wanting the curse of Marv Levy affixed to his efforts, he’s hoping this year the girls can dethrone a club-heavy Oliver Mowat squad.
With the addition of Toronto Aces coach Dean Impossimato to the coaching staff, there is hope the Rams can travel the 401 to OFSAA, being held in three cities this year: Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.
“He’s definitely helped us on our skill,” Sarajlic said of Impossimato. “There are a couple of girls who don’t practise regularly so he’s been able to make them definitely up to their best potential.”
Their battle en route to provincials will be taken one set at a time.
“Our whole focus these past two weeks has been one game,” Currie said. “You just throw it all out there on the court.
“If you play good defensively you can run with anybody,” he added. “I think the Mowat team we see, they’re good.”
Mowat, coached by Melvin Lowe, has plenty of talent from Leaside and Durham Attack.
The two weaknesses Sarajlic and Bell will be working are cohesion and overcoming the lack of height on the roster.
“What we would improve on is staying positive,” Sarajlic said. “The girls were sometimes not positive through their losses.
“We’ve been able to keep everyone together and wanting to participate.”
Staying positive keeps the Rams’ confidence up, so the ladies aren’t interested in selling themselves short.
“In volleyball, if you don’t have a lot of height, it’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as you can play defence really well,” Bell said. “As long as you can maintain your attack on the ball after setting up your pass and a set.”
Traditionally a libero with her club team Etobicoke Titans, Bell likes her new post at power.
“For the past two or three years on my club team I’ve been playing libero, which means I am constantly in the backcourt just passing and not serving or at the net,” she said. “Throughout the school season I have been playing power and I would really say that my attacks at the net have really improved since I’ve been at the net.”
After this season, the two captains will dig in their heels on the courts of university. Sarajlic hopes to go to University of Toronto for kinesiology and concurrent education, while her high school and club teammate Bell hopes to venture off Kingston-way for Queen’s business.
But for the time being, Sir Oliver Mowat’s defeat, and a trip to the provincials is the team’s aim.
“Over the past three years we’ve built a fairly successful program here, probably one of the stronger, top 10 in the city,” Currie said. “The senior team was in the (city) finals last year and we’re there again this year.”
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