They say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.
Well they couldn’t be more wrong in Langley, as lightning has not just struck once, or twice, but three times for eight members of the Langley Christian Lightning.
On Saturday night, in front of a loud and rowdy crowd, the Lighting dispatched a young and overmatched Abbotsford Christian Knights squad in three sets, 25-17, 25-15, 25-22 to capture a third provincial crown – Junior Boys in 2015 and AA Senior Boys in 2016.
“This is the best match we’ve played in the whole tournament,” said Lightning head coach Carol Hofer, who has coached the team to all three provincial crowns. “We got better every match and Matthias Dahl played his best match of his season, and was awesome, Caleb Kastelein stepped up…and hit some amazing balls, and Caleb Schnitzer, our setter, made great decisions.”
Before the match Hofer spoke to her team about belief and how she believed this group could be champions again.
“I told them that I believed we could be champions today and that we needed to get out there and do the work,” Hofer said. “We’ve focused all season long about what we know we’re capable of and really, we hardly ever focus on our opponents.”
Leading the way for the Lightning during their best game of the season was Hofer’s son Brodie, who won his second straight tournament MVP after unleashing a flurry of violent spikes on the Knight’s defenders.
“It’s (the multiple MVP awards) nice to have, but having three banners in a row with a team of guys that I’ve been going to school with every day and that I see all the time and are my best friends, coming home with those, tops the MVPs,” said Brodie in front of a packed house that remained to celebrate the win with the Lightning.
Brodie also acknowledge the crowd that was loud and cheered on every point for both teams, and of course his teammates, who were there all season long for him.
“They (his teammates) were fantastic,” Brodie said. “Every guy had something to bring to the table, weather they were on the bench hyping us up or they were serving or setting the ball.”
One such teammate that was particular awesome all tournament was Grade 12 libero, Matthias Dahl, who was named the tournament’s top libero.
“We worked so hard,” Dahl said as he looked pleasantly stunned in disbelief at what his team had accomplished. “I’m so excited, but at the same time I’m sad it’s over, because I love playing with this group of guys.”
And while one group of Grade 12s says good bye to high school volleyball, across the court a very talented group of Grade 11s has aspirations that maybe next season will be their year.
Abbotsford Christian will have more than half their roster returning next season including Canadian National 16U player and tournament first team all star, Cole Brandsma.
“I’m very excited about next year,” said Knight’s head coach Anthony Janzen as he smiled proudly about all his team had accomplished over the past year, reminding people that they weren’t even in this tournament a year ago. “I think we’ve set the ground work this year for some great things next year, so I’m very excited for next year.”
The Bronze Medal was won by Duchess Park Secondary School Condors as they beat their cross town rivals, the College Heights Secondary School Cougars, 25-11, 25-22 and 25-14.
It’s a game people are going to talk about for a while.
The Semiahmoo Secondary School Totems jumped out to a two sets to none lead on the Mt. Baker Secondary School Wild, only to watch the Wild claw themselves back into the match, taking the Totems to the limit in a nail-biting, 25-21, 25-22, 25-18, 12-25, 15-12 win.
“I did not let them off the floor,” said Totems head coach Michael Sapic as he explained how he handled his team heading into the deciding fifth set after dropping sets three and four.
And after that, Sapic began screaming encouraging word to his team, saying that the two sets they just lost didn’t matter anymore.
“I was trying to bring their emotions back up,” Sapic smiled as he celebrated with his team. “I said look, at the beginning of the season you thought we’d be in a fifth set for a Provincial Final, I think you’d be pretty happy with that, so let’s go and take it.”
The inspiring speech changed the Totems mood immediately, as they fired on all cylinders in the final set.
The play of Grade 11 setter, Jag Gill came around in that set, and he was lights out setting tournament MVP, Mike Dowhaniuk.
“He was lofting the ball a bit too high to Mike and he likes a faster ball, and so they were able to load up their blockers on Mike,” Explained Sapic as he talked about his setter that had only played the position for a mere three months. “But I think he adapted and by the fifth set they were faster.”
Dowhaniuk was just as complimentary about Gill’s play in the final set.
“When it came right down to it he really stepped up,” Dowhaniuk said. “I think he stepped into a big role for us and it was great having him all year to set me.”
After the win, Dowhaniuk said both championships are moments he’ll cherish for the rest of his life. A feeling that is shared with Grade 12 teammate, and First-Team All Star, Braxton Campbell.
“It’s an indescribable feeling, definitely better than last year,” Campbell said grinning ear-to-ear.
It’s unfortunate that in a Gold Medal game as good as this, someone need to go home with the Silver Medal. Still, with that in mind, Wild head coach Karley Ferner is proud of her team’s efforts in adding third Silver Medal to her school’s collection.
When the Wild were trailing two sets to none, Ferner modestly said she just never stopped cheering, believing in them and reminding them that the next point is theirs.
“I try to get them to rally each other instead of me trying to rally them, because they work the best when they’re building each other up.”
After the match, she called the second place finish bitter sweet. Sure they are happy to be returning home with a medal after an 11th place finish last year, but the loss still stings.
Earl Marriott captured the Bronze Medal, 25-22, 23-25, 25-13, 25-21 over Seaquam
In front of about 600 loyal fans at the Langley Events Centre, the Belmont Secondary School Bulldogs repeated as AAAA BC High School Senior Girls Volleyball Provincial Champions.
The team was led by tournament MVP, Savannah Purdy winning in three sets, 25-12, 25-16 and 25-16 over the Handsworth Secondary School Royals. Purdy was also awarded the MVP in 2016’s win, making her a rare two-time winner of the award.
“Savannah was marvellous today, I’m going to miss coaching her so much,” said Bulldogs head coach Mike Toakley as he celebrated the repeat with friends in the stands.
He also added that it was clear from the get go that Handsworth’s semi-final match earlier in the day against Earl Marriott took a lot of the Royals.
“From the get go it was clear that they (Handsworth) were not as strong as they normally would be,” Toakley said. “We’ve played them earlier this year, and we know how good they are when they’re fresh.”
The Bulldogs game plan was clear from the get go, as they tried to make Royals star player, Kayla Oxland, move as much as possible to keep her from setting the ball perfectly for the Royals attackers.
“She’s so fast and athletic,” Toakley said. “Anything you can do to get her off her game is going to help because she’s the straw that stirs that drink for sure.”
Long-time Royals head coach Tom Oxland didn’t make any excuses for the loss, saying the better team won today.
“Belmont played awesome,” Oxland said. “We’ve known all year if we play a bigger team then us and don’t win the serve-serve receive game, we’re probably going to lose.”
Two-time tournament MVP Savannah Purdy was ecstatic after the game as she celebrated with here teammates – the majority of the team has been playing together in school and club volleyball with the Victoria Chargers since Grade 8.
“Our goal today was to stay calm,” Purdy said. We’ve been playing together for a real long time, so we’re good at calming each other down when we’re on the court and playing our system as a team.”
She also added that her mom had hinted with a smile and nod in her mom’s direction that the team may be celebrating the victory at her house tonight, just as long as the make the seven-o’clock ferry home.
The Bulldogs also relied upon two other key players this tournament, Grade 12, Miranda Cyr and Grade 11, Taylee Pomponio. Both players were named First Team All Stars.
“I felt we were really in our element today and playing our best,” said Cyr, the team’s standout libero.
And next year’s Bulldogs team will be in good shape with both Taylee Pomponio and Second Team All Star Grace May returning to the team, along with Aspen Nemeth and Jocelyn Sherman.
“It’s real exciting,” Pomponio said grinning ear-to-ear. “We’re hoping to have a good team again next year with the four of us returning.”
Earlier in the day, Earl Marriott knocked off Semiahmoo, in two sets, 25-22, 25-22 for the Bronze Medal.
One team came in the powerhouse No. 1 overall seed, with the expectation of making it to the finals. The other, came in the defending champ who was every bit as intent on winning again despite their lower seed.
In front of a packed house on Friday night at the Langley Events Centre, the Mt. Baker Secondary School Wild and the Semiahmoo Secondary School Totems punched their tickets to the finals of the BC School Sports AAA Senior Boys Provincial Volleyball Championships.
For the top seed Wild, they made short work of the up-start Seaquam Seahawks in three sets, 25-11, 25-23 and 25-14.
But things haven’t always gone so well at Provincials for the Wild. Last season the team finished 11th, so what’s different with this year’s team?
“The boys grew a lot, getting taller and stronger” said head coach, Karley Ferner, who has coached a number of the players since their Grade 10 season. “Last year we had a couple hard working middles that weren’t very tall, but this year we have two Grade 11 middles who are six-foot-four and six-foot-seven, so that’s made a big difference.”
Ferner knew her team was locked in today because they never lost focus at any point in the match, even when they were trailing on a couple of occasions.
“They’re really gelling together right now and it’s fun to watch them play right now.”
The Wild have never won a AAA Senior Boys Volleyball Championship, but they have finished second twice. Once in 2001 and the other time in 2009.
“It would be the first one for our school, so winning would be a big deal.”
Semiahmoo, Back in the Finals
The other semi-final matchup saw the defending champion, Semiahmoo Totems knockout a team many felt was the most complete team in the tournament, the Earl Marriott Mariners, in three sets – 25-20, 25-18, 25-13.
“Today it was a real team effort,” Said head coach Michael Sapic. “Everybody knows that Michael (Dowhaniuk) is the best hitter in the province, but I’ve tried very hard to surround him with a good supporting cast, so today Micheal got his kills like he usually does, but everyone played well.”
He also added that after an up and down year for his team, it was nice to finally beat Earl Marriott for the first time this year.
And Sapic knows exactly how every player on his team will be feeling as they look to repeat as provincial champions on Saturday. He was in their shoes at Semiahmoo back in 1979 as a member of the team which captured the crown.
“My names on the trophy as a player, but I want to get it on there again, this time as a coach,”Sapic joked as the celebrated the win and looked forward to a match up with Mt. Baker.
And while Sapic didn’t want to give away too much of the game plan for the Gold Medal game, he did acknowledge Mt. Baker has some very good size, but Semiahmoo has a few tricks up their sleeve to deal with that size.
For the rest of today’s AAA High School Boys Volleyball results, CLICK HERE.
It’s a story that has everything we love about sports in it.
The underdog team, led by the banged up co-captain, knocks off one of the pre-tournament favourites, on their way to advancing to the quarter finals.
The injury to co-captain David Paisley happened just before the Okanagan Regionals, when he went up for a block and came down hard on an opponent’s foot, severely twisting his ankle – before the injury the Lakers were ranked No. 5 in BC at one point of the season.
“I’m real taped up right now and I’ve been icing it and doing exercises,” said the six-foot, Grade 12, libero. “We came out real strong, excited and no one let down on their intensity.”
He also added that the key to his team’s success was how well they passed the ball and the outstanding blocking of the team’s big players up front, something his assistant coach Markus Toneatto agrees with.
“I think Delta had a tough time adjusting to the big blocks, and we had a number of blocks today that went straight down, which led them to stop hitting and that was the game,” Toneatto said.
Toneatto also acknowledge just how nice it was to have Paisley back on the court.
“David’s been hurting, and today is the first day where I’ve seen him not limping,” Toneatto said. “He made a couple digs in the match where he came from the back row and the ball was off the net, and he popped it up over the net which totally changed the momentum of the match.”
The other key piece to the upset win was mountainous setter, Daniel Everton, who was described as horse today by Toneatto.
“He mixed it up on Delta today,” Toneatto said. “He would hit it hard one shot, then he’d mix it up and roll shot on them.”
“We’ve been waiting for him to play like he did today, and today he was amazing.”
Earlier in the day, the Lakers knocked off Centennial Secondary School in four sets. Something Everton thinks helped them in their game with Delta.
“We had one really good set (in their earlier game), we lost a set, which taught us a lesson that we can’t get comfortable or let up, even when we’re playing well,” Everton said still grinning ear to ear from the win. “So, for this game, we never let up and played a strong game the whole way.”
Penticton will now play Semiahmoo Secondary School tomorrow in the Quarter-finals.
For the rest of Day-2’s AAA Senior Boys results, CLICK HERE.