Walnut Grove carries plenty of motivation to BC’s

By Bob Carter

The mostly undeniable truths in next week’s Big Kahuna BC Volleyball Championships have no need to scream for attention. Rest assured, they’ll be on big-time display, overtly tangible, at Langley Events Centre unless some strange things happen.

For instance:

Langley Christian, the AA’s first seed, will have hops and opps aplenty to parade a powerful offence. On the AAA side, the top-ranked Owls of Kelowna will be so deep their bench could look something like non-stop Musical Chairs.

Van Tech, No. 2 in AAA, will look relatively small when matched against many teams, and still flaunt some of the tournament’s quickest hands and feet. Two-time defending AA champ MEI will look young, largely because the Eagles ARE young. And Walnut Grove’s Gators, fourth-seeded in AAA, will have almost everyone looking up at them, which in volleyball isn’t such a bad thing.

The tall Gators also have extra motivation, an intangible that doesn’t quite fit into the above watch-and-see. Last week Walnut Grove lost the Fraser Valley zone final to Semiahmoo 3-0 in a match that mathematically couldn’t have been closer, each set decided by two points.

And more importantly, perhaps, the Gators remember last year’s BC’s when they entered as surprising zone champs and carried a fifth seed, only to finish in a tie for 11th with Delta. “Very disappointing,” coach Gary Lutes said.

Lutes hopes his experienced team will reach a higher level this time.

“Their goals have been to repeat as Fraser Valley champ,” he said before the final, “and improve their ranking. And then finish higher than where they went in, which is always what you want.”

Walnut Grove's Ben Whiton hitting as Brent Christensen watches on.
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Walnut Grove’s Ben Whiton hitting as teammate Brent Christensen watches on. PHOTO: Paul Yates, Vancouver Sports Pictures.

Leading the push will be 6-8 Andrew Goertzen, 6-5 Brett Christensen and setter Hugh Brown, who after sprouting to 6 feet this year has been blocking more and working on his jump set. A key player, Lutes said, could be the improving Ben Witon, a 6-3 right side: “Since teams put a lot of focus on our big guys, he could be an X factor for us.”

Another FV South team with something to prove might be Delta, which finished first in league play at 7-1, then placed sixth in the Fraser Valleys. The Pacers’ punishment? A No. 15 seed at Provincials.

Eight FV teams made the AAA tournament, led by third-seeded Semiahmoo, who had the zone playoffs’ MVP in 6-4 grade 11 Mike Dowhaniuk and two other all-stars, Matt Armstrong and Adam Paige. Other FV all-stars were the Gators’ Goertzen and Christensen, Elijah St. Germain of third-place Seaquam and Matt Marthinsen of fourth-place Centennial.

QUICK HITS:

* Team BC player Ben Shand helped College Heights rally from a 2-1 sets deficit in the North Central AA final and edge Prince George rival Duchess Park in five, 15-13. Cougars coach Jay Guillet called the match “a classic.” It also could be a huge confidence boost in Langley for Duchess Park, seeded seventh — one spot behind CH in Pool B. College Heights setter Graham Walkey was the tourney MVP.

* Kelowna defeated an improving Mt. Boucherie team in four for its seventh straight AAA Okanagan zone title. The Owls, who like to spread the ball around for kills, were sparked by 6-4 Spencer Doody. KSS coach Mike Sodaro is looking for better consistency in the BC’s, especially on defence, and more intensity. “At times, we’ve been coasting,” he said. “I want us to be in the game with our hearts.” Boucherie is seeded sixth at Provincials.

* The Fraser Valley AA league will have the top four seeds in Langley: in order, zone champ LCS, Pacific Academy, MEI and Langley Fundamental. The four have dominated the rankings this year and won 10 of the last 11 BC’s with MEI claiming eight titles and LCS and Fundy one each. The only non-FV school to break through in that span was WL Seaton in 2010.

* Led by tournament MVP Isaac Bevis, Dover Bay won the AAA Island zone championships, beating Reynolds in four. The Dolphins also had good performances from Thomas Wright, Nathan Ziemanski and Joey Chi. They’re the fifth seed at Langley, and will match up again with  Reynolds, No. 7, in AAA’s second pool (F).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Dean Weiss

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