Fort St. John’s Barb Cranston is in her second year at Grande Prairie Regional College and already she has earned three Player of the Game recognitions with the Wolves’ women’s volleyball team this season.
With her team’s back-to-back wins in Fort McMurray last weekend, Cranston got her third POG of the season which Wolves’ head coach Ron Thomson says she’s definitely earned.
“In the three instances she’s put together some pretty consistent performances and in some cases has been pretty dominating,” Thomson said from Grande Prairie on Wednesday.
“Overall I’m so, so happy with Barb’s performance this year. She’s made some great strides in the last year,” he added. “She’s really stepped it up a notch and that’s been quite noticeable from our perspective and with the teams we’re playing against, they have to focus a lot more on her than they have in the past.”
Thomson said that POGs are typically given to players with the most number of kills, blocks, digs and service aces in that collection of sets.
When asked why she thought she earned Saturday’s POG, Cranston had to laugh.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I think a lot of it were my kills. Friday I was having issues kind of getting in the mindset and getting focused so I was really working on that for Saturday.”
Cranston admits facing some inconsistency this season despite her three POGs, mostly because Thomson has switched her to the right side position out of her comfort zone (she usually plays left).
“It’s definitely a different position and it’s a challenge, but it’s good I really like it,” Cranston said. “In high school I played some right side so I’m fairly familiar with the position but yeah I’m adjusting. The position defensively is different.”
Thomson agreed that Cranston has had ups and downs while adjusting, but explained his decision to play her right side this season.
“It’s a definite challenge but she’s doing awesome, especially at this level to be thrown in there and trying to make some of those changes that way,” he said.
“Sometimes a coach’s decision is about getting his best players on the floor… Barb was in a position playing left side and often sitting behind two third-year players and [putting her on the right side] was a way to put her in the mix and get her on the floor because she’s very deserving and is one of our top six players.”
“It didn’t make sense to us to have her sitting on the bench.”
The Wolves’ women’s volleyball team currently sits in fifth place in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) and lead the league in hitting percentage this season.
Despite having two other (healthy) right side players on the Wolves, Thomson continues to start the second-year Cranston.
“I’ve been starting for most matches,” Cranston said. “I’m absolutely loving every minute of it. I have great coaches and a great team.”
Cranston’s older sister Dana plays volleyball for Colorado State University and her younger brother Blain plays for the senior boys volleyball team at North Peace Secondary. She’s not alone in Grande Prairie, however.
Another Fort St. John girl, Kaitlyn Farwell, is on the Wolves’ roster but she’s currently unable to play due to an Achilles injury which could leave her off the court for the entire season. Even though she can’t play, Farwell helps the team out at practice as much as she can then helps as a manager on the bench during games.
“Kaitlyn’s a bright and intelligent girl and easy to get a long with so it’s great having her with us,” Thomson said.
“I can’t emphasize enough how pleased I am with the contribution of the girls from Fort St. John in our program, in particular Barb and Kaitlyn. They’ve really added a great element to our program and it’s true credit to the high school and club program in Fort St. John. We rely on some of those people to help keep small-town Peace Country volleyball alive in the ACAC.”
The Wolves head to Calgary this weekend to take on SAIT, who are ranked 13th in the ACAC, but Cranston said they’ve always been good competition for the Wolves.
“We need to come out with the mindset to give it our all and I think we’ll do fine,” she said. “We’re having difficulties keeping consistency, we’re kind of like a rollercoaster and I think we did better with that this past weekend so I think that’s what we need to do again for this weekend coming up.”
Beating Keyano in Fort McMurray last weekend in two straight matches over two days was an important feat to carry over into Calgary this coming weekend, Cranston said, since Saturday games seem to be her team’s weak spot.
“We’ve had a couple struggles this year with our Saturday games. This is the first game we’ve won on a Saturday because we dominate usually on the Friday then the team comes in with a better mindset and comes out on top,” she said.
“It’s totally mental for us and I guess this weekend we broke it.”
Cranston will have another opportunity for her fourth POG this weekend when she takes on SAIT at 6 p.m. on Friday.