By Bob Carter
The Fraser Valley South has been a force in boys volleyball since the late 1990s, usually sending one or two teams to the BC’s with a good chance of grabbing medals.
In the past 17 years, league teams have won eight BC championships — Semiahmoo three, Earl Marriott two and Walnut Grove, Fleetwood Park and Elgin Park one each. No other league or zone has won more than four in that span.
It may be too early to tell whether the Fraser Valley will have another serious title contender this year, but the league could send a pack of competitive teams to try to get the job done. The league historically has assembled a strong Tier-1 nucleus, and this season may be the same.
Veteran Fraser Heights coach James Ahn thinks the biggest surprise so far is the league’s depth.
“Usually, there are only a couple of very competitive teams,” he says, “but this year we probably have six or seven that can be competitive against most teams in the province.”
Fraser Heights, winless in the league through Oct. 5, has a young team, mostly Grade 11s, that will be learning how to compete on the go.
“Our goal would be to make it to provincials,” Ahn says. “The boys will have to learn to work harder than the other teams because we don’t have the size to overpower them.”
The first three weeks of league matches illustrate Ahn’s point about the Fraser Valley’s depth. Six of the nine teams were .500 or better in league, with Delta (4-0) and Semiahmoo (3-0) unbeaten, AAA second-ranked Walnut Grove at 3-1 and three teams at .500 – Elgin Park, Seaquam and Marriott.
Delta, ranked fifth in BC, won the Douglas tournament and made the quarterfinals of the 40-team UBC invitational before losing to top-ranked Kelowna.
“I was impressed by Delta,” says KSS coach Mike Sodaro. “They match up with us well.”
The Pacers, led by outside hitters Keaton Mann and Dylan Bubel and setter Jordan Payne, have “a cultivated core of six strong seniors,” says coach Carson Kauenhowen. “We won’t be the tallest team, but our athleticism will make us a tough competitor for any matchup.”
Kauenhowen has liked the way his team has “bought into a system, allowing ourselves to execute a game plan.”
Walnut Grove, which lost only two players from last year’s league champs, has finished fourth at the TWU tournament and second at the MEI tourney. The Gators have lost to Semiahmoo in a league match and to highly ranked AAs Langley Fundamental, Pacific Academy and Langley Christian.
“The strength in BC is at the AA level,” Gators coach Gary Lutes says.
Walnut Grove has a tall team that includes 6-8 Andrew Goertzen and 6-5 Brett Christensen.
The Gators’ goal?
“Repeat as Fraser Valley champs and fare better at the BC’s this year,” Lutes says.
“We need to be better to a man, deal positively with adversity, commit to defense first.”