By Bob Carter
Langley — Michael Dowhaniuk was a killer shark for most of the night, a racehorse at the very end.
When his final hit rocketed to the floor, untouched, the Semiahmoo standout sprinted from the net to the end of the gym in glee with teammates in chase.
The second-seeded Totems had beaten season-long No. 1 Kelowna in a tense, well-played, five-set thriller (16-14) for the AAA title at the Big Kahuna BC Volleyball Championships.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” said the grade 11 attacker.
Saturday’s match was all the near-capacity crowd could have expected: two skilled, hustling teams playing at a high level.
Both teams got high-calibre performances from several players in a match that left many drained.
Dowhaniuk admitted that he felt weary midway through the final set, when the team’s changed sides with Semi up 8-7.
“I just kept breathing for a minute,” he said, “then I was ready to go again.”
With the game tied at 14, Dowhaniuk scored his seventh and eighth points of the set to bring Semi the win.
He was quick to point out that he got plenty of help, that the victory was a full team effort.
“Our defence and blocking was really important,” Semi coach Maggie Knight said. “Our defence was shifting around the block, and our libero came up big.”
Brian Wallack, Adam Paige and Braxton Campbell were among those who delivered key blocks.
“They were a huge momentum thing for us,” Dowhaniuk said.
KSS started slowly, falling behind early and never recovering in the first set.
“We were really tight,” said Owls coach Mike Sodaro. “Game 1 was not pretty to watch.”
The Totems looked loose at the start. “Their movements were so fluid,” Knight said, “and every hit had a purpose.”
The match got tougher for Semi soon after as the Owls’ Justin Peleshytyk, Connor White and Spencer Doody got in a better hitting flow.
KSS took the fourth set after it turned a 12-12 tie into a 22-12 lead with a 10-point run.
The Owls then jumped ahead 4-1 in the fifth before Dowhaniuk finally prevailed.
“It came down to just a few points,” Sodaro said. “It was a good battle.”
Unfortunately, the battle ended like his previous three title games (2012-14), in a loss. “I can’t believe it happened a fourth time.”
Knight’s reaction to Sodaro’s plight was simply one word: “Brutal.”
But Sodaro made no excuses. “You set a high goal, but it’s pretty easy to set them. A lot harder to meet them.”
He said the Owls tried plenty of moves to slow Dowhaniuk, but in the end nothing worked good enough.
“We tried to serve away from him, we tried to serve to him,” Sodaro said. “But he responded very well, right up to the last hit.”