A strong friendship is helping the Oilfields Drillers up the middle.
Taylor Wheatley and Lesley Chalmers are both playing middle for the upstart Drillers Sr. Girls volleyball team.
Although they are in Grade 11, they have known each other for years.
“We have been best friends together since we were in Kindergarten or Grade 1,” Chalmers said. “And we’ve been playing together since then (at Millarville Community School).”
The pair were key components of a Driller Thriller Sept. 25 at a full Oilfields gymnasium in Black Diamond. The plucky Drillers outlasted the Highwood Mustangs 3-2 (25-22, 23-25, 22-25, 26-24, 15-12) in a 2 1/2 hour marathon match.
Chalmers said her best friend has plenty of smarts.
“She is really confident — she can hit the ball with power on it,” she said. “She always knows where to be – we always seem to know where we are (on the court).
“I think we play pretty well together.”
It’s not too tough for fans or opponents to find the Driller Duo — they are right dab in the middle.
“She will be middle on the front row and I will be on the back row or vice versa,” Chalmers said.
Wheatley plays power on her club volleyball team in Calgary (Chalmers is a teammate there as well) but switched to middle at Oilfields – showing her Driller Pride.
“Taylor is playing middle, and I am not going to lie she probably doesn’t love it,” said Drillers coach Kristen Ahearn. “She’s recognizing she is part of a team and she has been doing a great job.”
Fortunately it's a job Wheatley has done in the past.
"We had two girls who played middle last year and unfortunately they aren't back this year," Wheatley said. "They asked if it would be okay if I played middle and I said that would be just fine.
"In my previous club years I played middle, so I have some idea of what I am doing."
Both Wheatley and Chalmers played JV high school volleyball in Grade 9 at Oilfields and in Grade 10 they were on the senior varsity squad.
“Lesley is one of those girls who is very well-rounded, athletic and talented in many sports,” Ahearn said. “She’s one of the strongest leaders on the court. What I love is how she has such positive energy and it’s contagious. The girls feed off that energy.”
The Drillers showed that positive spirit against the feisty Mustangs from High River. Oilfields was down 2-1 in sets, before winning the final two for the victory.
“The girls battled, they were resilient — there is so much to the mental side of the game,” said Ahearn. “It was communication when we fell apart. As soon as we started talking and celebrating our successes, it brought our energy levels back up.”
The Drillers are coming off a successful 2019 season in which they finished second to the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans in the 2A South Central Zones.
Ahearn said this year’s edition can build on that success.
“I am really excited with the potential that we have,” Ahearn said. “We can only get better and stronger.”
“I think we have the potential to do really well,” Chalmers said. “It’s the start of the season and we are trying to figure things out. Once we do, we can do really well.”
Her pal on the court, Wheatley, is also optimistic.
"Everyone has played some volleyball and some of since we were at Millarville," Wheatley said. "It should be pretty good."
The Drillers opened the season by advancing to the semifinals in Claresholm.
They started the FAC season with a 3-0 loss to the 4A Holy Trinity Academy Knights on Sept. 18. At there home-tournament on Sept. 28, the Drillers were knocked out in the semifinals by Claresholm. The tournament was won by Acme
The Drillers next FAC match is Oct. 9 when they travel to play the Foothills Falcons at 7 p.m.
The Drillers are: Jessie White, Claire McPherson, Wheatley, Kiera Bretzlaff, Darian Fisher, Nikita Palamar, Alex Matthews, Chalmers and Amanda Burritt.
The Falcons, who are 2-0 in the FAC after downing the Notre Dame Collegiate Timberwolves in High River on Sept. 25, will host the STS Spartans at 7 p.m. Oct. 2.
The 2-0 Holy Trinity Academy Knights, who downed the County Central Hawks in Vulcan on Sept. 25, will host their cross-town rivals the Falcons on Oct. 7 at 5:30 p.m.