ALMA – The Northumberland Nighthawks have their work cut out for them as they prepare for the girls high school regional volleyball playoffs.
The Nighthawks are among four teams in the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation’s Division I girls Northumberland Region playoffs being hosted by the J.G. Gillis Royal in Antigonish on Saturday.
Head coach Keith Melanson said this weekend will be the first time all season that he will have all 11 players on his team available.
“I’m looking forward to it, to see if we can put it all together,” he said. “It’s the first time the whole team will be together, and we’ve been playing better.”
Four starters have been unavailable due to injury and conflicting events.
Compounding the Nighthawks’ challenges has been the federation’s decision last spring to reduce the number of divisions from four to three, based on school enrolment.
Northumberland was playing in Division II, although the Nighthawks sometimes played in tournaments against Division I teams in the past to help improve their skill sets and become more competitive. The strategy has worked but now they’re playing Division I teams in earnest.
Now the Nighthawks are in Division I, where Cobequid Education Centre’s 1,600 enrolment is twice that of Northumberland. The Cougars are ranked second in the province entering the Regionals.
The regional tournament will be played in one day on Saturday. The Nighthawks will face the Cobequid Cougars at 10 a.m., the host Royals at 11:15 and the North Nova Gryphons at 1 p.m.
The regional champion will advance outright to host the provincial championship on December 2 and 3, while the second-place team will go to a qualifying tournament on November 25 and 26.
Melanson said he is unsure how successful the Nighthawks can be but is banking on the team at least going to a qualifier, despite its relative youth.
Among the Nighthawks’ 11 players are one Grade 9 player and eight in Grade 10, which Melanson said bodes well for the team next season if the group stays intact.
Jessica Trevors returns a volleyball during practice. She is playing with the Northumberland Nighthawks’ varsity girls team that is playing in regional playoffs this Saturday in Antigonish. (File photo)