EMS still hanging in despite small numbers

Earl Marriott Jumps in celebration after winning the 2014 AAA Gold Medal!- Sports Action Photo by Brittany

Earl Marriott Jumps in celebration after winning the 2014 AAA Gold Medal!- Sports Action Photo by Brittany

By Bob Carter

Talk of a three-peat came naturally at Earl Marriott Secondary this season. That goal, though, began clouding for the two-time AAA champions in September when new coach Dave Dooley was barely able to scrap together a team.

Dooley, who has taken over for former coach Bob Smith, realized the difficulty of winning a third consecutive title even before encountering a numbers problem.

“We’re not the same EMS team that has been around for the past several seasons,” said Dooley, who was a Camosun College assistant under Charles Parkinson and coach of a Victoria U18 club team. “We’ve lost several key guys, including three who would be in Grade 12 for us this season, and likely starters, but have moved on in some capacity.

“As a result, we had to bring up a few Grade 10s to even have enough to field a team, a sad thought given the recent success in the program.”

By early November, the eighth-ranked Mariners had nine players and had taken the lead in the Fraser Valley South race.

They started the season well with a fifth-place finish at the UBC tournament, and despite some later tourney struggles, have steered the course well in the league.

Dooley said they’ve gotten strong leadership from captains Tyson Smith (left side hitter) and Pearson Stiller (setter), both Grade 12s.

“From there, our lineup is filled out by a couple of fresh guys who have learned their roles well, as well as some very solid Grade 10s,” Dooley said.

“Malakai McMullin (left side) is one of the most solid passing and defending players I’ve seen, and he’s only Grade 10. Offensively, he’s very technically sound, and while he lacks some height (5-10), he makes up for it with both power and finesse, a deadly combination.”

The team’s strength, Dooley said, is the serve and pass game. “Our passing rotation consists of three passers who are so great our libero often becomes the target, a challenge he loves to accept.

“While we have one strong spin server (Smith), we are a tactical float-serving team that tends to put our opponent out of system right off of the first contact, making up for a lack of size and blocking at the net — our main weakness by far.”

Dooley was asked to rate players and teams he’s seen this season. His assessment:

Best blocker: Ryan Samuelson (Kelowna setter).

Best setter: “I’m biased but would have to say Pearson Stiller (EMS).”

Grade 10s to watch for: Malakai McMullin (EMS), Michael Dowhaniak (Semiahmoo).

Best offensive team: MEI. “A very strong systematic team both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Suffice it to say we’re glad that they’re AA!”

Best attackers: “Tyson Smith (EMS), Dan Aspenlieder (Fulton), Nick Mickelberry (Oak Bay) and the big lefty for MEI (Kaden Gamache).”

Best defensive team: Fraser Heights and Van Tech. “Always tough to put balls away against those guys.”

Most improved: Walnut Grove. “A very athletic and much improved squad.”

Top 3 AA: MEI, Fulton, Langley Christian.

Top 3 AAA: KSS, Mount Boucherie, Oak Bay.

 

Author: Dean Weiss

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