By Bob Carter
Oak Bay got a boost from a third-set loss, and Dover Bay had to scramble back once again Friday as the two Island rivals advanced to a meeting in the AAA semifinals.
The fourth-seeded Barbers defeated Kelowna in four sets, and the top-seeded Dolphins escaped a 2-1 hole against defending champion Earl Marriott to win in five.
Oak Bay, trying to close out its match, rallied back from a 19-13 deficit in the third set before falling 27-25. The pushback produced confidence.
“We wanted to keep that play going into the fourth set,” coach Al Carmichael said. And the Barbers did, jumping to a 4-0 lead and never trailing after that.
“This was the best we’ve played in the tournament,” said Carmichael, who used his bench considerably. “The quality of our play is going up, and we’re approaching how we played in the Island zones.”
He particularly liked the offensive punch provided by 6-5 attacker Nick Mickleberry (25 kills in 45 swings) and 6-4 middle Matt Griffin (9 kills in 16 swings).
The Barbers also had 12 blocks.
Dover Bay, which edged Oak Bay in a five-set Islands final, had to overcome a strong Marriott surge keyed by attacker Tyson Smith and Grade 10 Malakai McMullin. The Mariners took the third set 25-15 to go up 2-1 and looked ready to advance.
The candy was a nice sweetener for the Dolphins, who got some lift from right side Owen Frey and a huge boost from Jeff Webb, the coach’s son, whose attacks wore on the Mariners.
But Dover, which twice had survived being down two sets during the season, proved once more that it thrives on close matches.
“I told them we’ve been been here before,” coach Josie Webb said. “I said to relax and play your game, play for each other. And in the end gave them Starburst to pump them up.”
Dover also elevated its defensive game.
“We started covering the holes where they were hitting as they were putting the ball in spots we didn’t expect,” Webb said, “and we did a better job of picking up the little tips they kept getting on us.”
The smallish Dolphins rolled in the fourth set and took a 3-0 lead in the fifth set. Marriott hung tight, four times closing the gap to one point, before a late Dover burst put the match away 15-11.
“We’re not the kind of team that has a lot of club players (only three),” Webb said. “Everybody has their own little job on offence.”
And the Dolphins worked those jobs to a Friday night final-four spot.