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‘We played with the big dogs’: Kootenay Bombers U18 girls compete at volleyball nationals

The team were among 150 squads in Edmonton
Club Thumpin’ — The Kootenay Bombers U18 Girls Volleyball Club rattled off major wins over a number of big city teams at last week’s Canadian Volleyball Canada National Championships. Back row from left: Coach Staci Proctor, Cadence Schmidt, Gia Davidson, Atlyn Proctor, Paityn Lake, Lexi Elias, Georgia Schuel, assistant coach Curtis Good, Natalie Rexin, Olivia Keys and Mya Pommier. Photo: Darren Davidson

by Darren Davidson

The best. Ever.

In her 25 years of coaching, that’s where this year’s Kootenay Bombers under-18 girls volleyball club ranks in all the squads Nelson coach Staci Proctor has skippered.

Proctor, who retires from coaching this season along with the Bombers’ name itself, has seen a lot of spikes, bumps and bruises. Following a lengthy career as a university and professional player, the Nelson native ran programs in Switzerland, Edmonton sports power house Ross Sheppard High, Nelson’s Trafalgar and L.V. Rogers. This year’s team was made up of players from Nelson, Crawford Bay, Grand Forks and the Slocan Valley.

The Bombers’ last sortie of the season — a 2,000-kilometre, five-day round trip to Edmonton for the Canadian Volleyball Canada National Championships — was for certain one for the photo album. And almost the record books too.

“I think we played the best volleyball of the season at Nationals,” Proctor surmised. “We definitely peaked.”

The Bombers went into the Nationals last week ranked 78th out of a whopping 150 ladies U18 teams from across the country. They opened the first day with two wins and a loss versus bigger city squads from Lethbridge, Calgary and Waterloo, Ont. — beating Waterloo’s Durham Attack, a club so stacked with talent they normally field two squads. The Attack’s Ontario league has over 120 teams. Comparatively, the league the Bombers play in here in B.C. has around 30.

Led by their most formidable defence of the season and an offensive array of bomb-heavy spikes, cross-court lasers and deft drops, the Bombers barrelled into their second day with two more wins and a close loss.

The performance bumped the Kootenay crew into the power pool and up from 78th seed all the way to 58th.

“We played with the big dogs,” says Proctor. “Just moving up those 20 seeds was huge for us.”

The Bombers awoke early the next day to face the Attack again for a bid into the medal round. But the go-gettin’ gals ran out of ammo, losing two in a row to Waterloo, although by close scores.

“Unfortunately we beat ourselves,” Proctor reflected. “We lost to a very good team. But one we’d already beat.”

The Attack head coach later said he “wished his girls could play the Bombers every day.”

“That’s a heavy hitting team,” he said.

The Attack would go on to win the gold medal. Their only loss was to the Bombers.

The championships were thunderous at times, with thousands on hand — fans, towering men’s and women’s players, bellering coaches and refs’ adorned with piercing whistles. The games were played on an almost unbelievable 40 courts at a time inside Edmonton’s enormous EXPO centre, the biggest indoor space in Western Canada.

As for the Bombers, with name changes for LVR teams on tap for next year, it’s the end of an era. So too for both assistant coach Curtis Good, who’s set to teach in Cairo, Egypt next year, and Proctor.

“This was the best season I’ve had in all my coaching career,” she says, but adds that next year’s club will be a major contender.

Grade 12 stars Atlyn Proctor and Lexi Elias are graduating, with Proctor heading out on a full scholarship to play NCAA Division One ball in Kansas. Grade 11 starters Paityn Lake, Georgia Schuel, Gia Davidson and Cadence Schmidt could all be back during their senior years, bolstered by a strong up-and-coming crew of rookie players. The Bomber’s U16 squad were in Edmonton last weekend and made it to the semifinals.

“With all the Grade 11s who’ve already played U18,” says Proctor, “they’re going to have a really strong core next year.”