By Bob Carter
George Elliot and Abby Christian will meet for the AA title Saturday at the Kahunaverse Sports BC Volleyball Championships.
Both survived critical moments in Friday’s semifinals.
ACS rallied to defeat Fraser Valley rival Langley Christian in four sets after nearly being down 2-0, ending the dream of a third consecutive title for the Lightning.
Elliott, a team ranked No. 1 most of the season, beat College Heights in five sets (17-15). It was the Coyotes’ fifth victory over CH this year in five meetings.
“I’m so happy for the players,” GESS coach Chris Frehlick said, adding that “it has been a long time since George Elliot has been in the finals.”
After controlling the play in taking the first two sets, 22 and 16, the Coyotes dropped the next two sets, 26-24 and 25-23. They fell behind 8-6 in the fifth, tied it at 11 on a Roan McCarthy kill, then trailed 14-13 on a big hit by the Cougars’ Matt Shand.
One point from defeat, Frehlick called a timeout and later remembered telling his team two things: “Pass the ball and be aggressive.”
The Coyotes won four of the next five points for the victory.
GESS has gone 2-0 this season against Abby Christian, which had been struggling to find its form the last few weeks.
The Knights entered the BCs as the sixth seed after losing two late matches in league play and two more in the zone playoffs.
They lost the first set to LCS 25-23 and blew a four-point late in the second, falling behind by a point with the Lightning serving for the set. The Knights then won three straight points to even the match 27-25 and took the next two sets 25-17, 25-20.
Pulling out the second set was huge, said Knights coach Anthony Jansen.
“That win instilled all the confidence the boys needed,” he said. “It was a great team effort.”
Standout Cole Brandsma, a 6-6 power, played extremely well, but the play of 5-11 Zach Meinen turned out to be critical.
“He contributed more than in any other game,” Jansen said. “He made a big difference, giving us another left side. He took some of the pressure off Cole, who had one of his best games.”
The pressure seemed to lessen Friday for the whole team, which didn’t play well in winning its first two pool games two days earlier.
“Every day we’ve been gaining confidence,” Jansen said. “It looks like we’re peaking at the right time.”
Game NOTES from ACS vs LCS:
Game 1: Both teams are hitting the cover off of the ball. This is terrific volleyball. Langley Christian finishes with a thunderous hit from Kastelein on the left side to win 25-23.
Game 2: Abby Christian’s #10 tooling and has at least three kills. Abby Christian is up 19-15 when LCS calls timeout. LCS calls timeout down 18-22. LCS battles back to 23-23 as ACS calls a timeout. Abby Christian battles 27-25
Game 3: ACS has 9-2 early lead. Has control from the outset and takes game 25-17.
Game 4; The battle continues with great saves by both sides. ACS up 12-9. Cole his a ball straight down the line for 14-11 lead. ACS up 21-16 with great defense – LCS calls timeout. ACS #10 playing out of this planet. ACS WINS 25-20!!!! FINALS BOUND.
Game NOTES from GESS vs CH:
Game 1: George Elliot has commanding 19-14 lead- College Heights battled back to 20-21. George Elliot finishes strong to take the set.
Game 2: Shand is scoring at will early. College Heights called for a number of 2 touch calls in the middle. George Elliot takes control of the middle and takes the game 25-16.
Game 3: College Heights can’t solve George Elliot. GESS #5 is on fire early. College Heights fights back to take a lead 12-11 before GESS calls timeout. Down at 19-20 College Heights calls timeout. 23-23. Off of a fast set to the outside- a quick swing -fans and misses to create a 23-24 deficit for GESS. GESS calls timeout. Medical timeout for #5 creates a long break between serves. CH misses serve. 24-24. #10 CH kill down the line 25-24. CH wins 26-24.
Game 4: Down 3-6 CH calls timeout. Both teams battling and hitting hard with great digs. 14-14. A couple of CH errors down 14-17. #6 CH scores against triple block down still down 16-18. CH 12 serving – 19-18 after CH 6 recycles ball then pounds the next one down. Timeout GESS. GESS #11 now in front row. CH 22-20 CH #6 serving – into net. CH timeout up 22-21. Fans are going crazy. CH #10 with two kills near the end to take 24-22 lead. GESS #11 hits down the line off the block 23-24. #12 CH kill out of the middle for 25-23 win.
Game 5: 1-0 GESS #5 combo kill to start 1-0. GESS #15 hard kill 2-1. tied 3-3. GESS #11 tool kill 4-3. CH #10 great kill 4-4. CH #12 off a party ball straight down 5-5. CH #6 hard kill down the line 6-6. CH # 6 party ball kill 7-6. CH #6 kill deep cross – CH up 8-6 at the turn. Timeout GESS down 6-8. tied 8-8 two errors. CH #6 right side kill. Dribble drop kill CH 10-8. GESS right side kill 9-10. #15 GESS short serve -block 10-10. CH #10 Kill left side 11-10. GESS #11 great deep kill 11-11 : CH calls timeout. GESS in the middle tip falls to the ground 12-12. CH #10 rocket kill 13-12. GESS crazy dig and GESS #11 D ball kill down the right line. 13-13 CH calls timeout. GESS #8 serving – Great rally CH#6 kill to gap in 6 and 1 CH 14-13. CH #6 -out 14-14. GESS #5 party ball kill 15-14. CH #6 tool kill 15-15. CH #6 high out. 17-15 setter called for 2 touch.
By Bob Carter
Abbotsford Christian and College Heights came close in 2017. Now the Knights, AA silver medalists last year, and the Cougars, who placed fourth last year and second in 2016, are preparing for another title pursuit in the Kahunaverse Sports BC Volleyball Championships.
The event runs Nov. 28-Dec. 1 at Langley Events Centre.
The two teams are among those that have been chasing top-ranked George Elliot (Lake Country) most of the season.
ACS, which lost to repeat champ Langley Christian in last year’s final, is again powered by 6-6 Cole Brandsma, a Grade 12 outside hitter. The UBC signee was a member of Volleyball Canada’s National Youth Team earlier in the year.
“Cole is very skilled, but he’s as humble as he is spectacular,” said Knights coach Anthony Jansen. “He’s pretty consistent emotionally and plays hard to support his team. A quiet leader.”
The Knights played well for most of the regular season but lost two late Fraser Valley league matches (to LCS and MEI) when Brandsma was out with an ankle injury. Soon after his return, the team dropped two matches in the zone playoffs (to MEI and Surrey Christian), slipping to a sixth seed for the BCs.
Asked about his squad prior to the Fraser Valleys, Jansen said, “They’re still a young team that’s trying to figure some things out.”
College Heights (Prince George) had a better zone showing last week and earned the second seed behind George Elliot in the top AA power pool at Langley. The Cougars won the North Central playoffs, beating Kelly Road in the final.
Six players returned from a year ago, including two talented left sides, Matthew Shand and Nolan Minck. Shand was a first team all-star at last year’s BCs and Minck a second-team selection.
“Matt’s a very good jumper who hits a heavy ball,” CH coach Linden Smith said. “He’s also becoming a smarter player.”
Minck, a skillful passer, sometimes gets overlooked, Smith said, because he doesn’t jump as high as Shand, but he’s a highly efficient hitter.
The two get help up front from right side Isaiah Ohori and middle Dayton O’Neill.
Ohori, Smith said, was a “go-to” hitter in junior and club play. “But he got thrown into a role where we needed him on the right side. To get on the floor, he had to adapt, but he’s improving. He quickly earned his keep.”
O’Neill stands about 6-5 or 6-6, Smith said, “but has a wingspan of 6-8. He has crazy long arms. He’s definitely one of the most underrated middles (in BC). His game has improved a lot.”
Other key contributors include setter Zach Ohori, Isaiah’s older brother, and a second middle, Rafael Rodrigues.
The team’s strengths: strong attacking from the left side, good blocking and defence.
As Abby Christian tries to rebound from its zone showing, the Knights almost certainly will be led by Brandsma, not only by his talent but the intangibles he brings.
“He’s a big confidence booster when he’s on the court,” Jansen said. “He calms everyone down.”
Brandsma also has a dependable supporting cast that includes 6-3 Grade 12 Connor Piers, a left-handed hitter who plays the right side; Grade 12 setter Brandon Visser, a Team BC player last year; and 6-3 middle Josh Apperloo, a Grade 11 who has played every position but setter this season.
Visser has matured greatly, Jansen said. “He hustles really well, and gets to almost every ball. He’s very dedicated, probably the hardest worker on the team.”
Jansen indicated earlier this month that he liked the team’s unity but thought his side needed to raise its grit level in the postseason.
“We’re working on trying to dig the ball, get balls up and fight to the end,” he said. “We need to be gritty and defensive-minded. We’ve had some games where we’ve come back and others we haven’t.
“It’s about the kids finding that rhythm. They can do it.”
By Bob Carter
Langley — College Heights broke up the Fraser Valley’s fierce foursome Thursday night in quarterfinal AA action at the Big Kahuna BC Volleyball Championships.
The fourth-seeded Cougars from Prince George beat Langley Fundamental, last year’s runnerup, in four sets. They’ll join FV teams Pacific Academy, Langley Christian and MEI, the top three seeds, in Friday’s semifinals.
CH coach Jay Guillet said his team delivered a performance to match its confidence and the kind needed to play at the highest level.
“At this point, it’s not about the skill now,” he said, “but your will. There are seven or eight great AA teams, and you have to be willing to make three great plays to win a point. You have to be willing to make great plays the whole match.”
Ben Shand, playing the right side instead of his normal left, played well, Guillet said, as did setter Graham Walkey.
“In general, our whole team bought into the system, what’s needed to succeed at this level,” Guillet said.
He was pleased with the team’s blocking, too. “We got a lot of touches off the block.”
On Friday, the Cougars will play PA, which beat them 3-0 at the George Elliot tournament.
MEI handled another Prince George team, Duchess Park, 3-0, and advanced to play Langley Christian on Friday.
Grade 12 outside hitter Colton Loewen, last year’s MVP at Provincials, was again a swinging star and got plenty of help from fellow front row standout Carson Bargen.
“I thought our setter (Brendan Loewen) distributed really well,” Eagles coach Brad Knodel said.
MEI controlled the match nearly all the way.
“We never let them get any runs,” Knodel said. “And I was very happy with how we played their middles. We forced them to the outside — not their strength — and used our outsides, our strength.”
Langley Christian, which has a 4-1 record against MEI this year, rolled past seventh seed George Elliot, and PA defeated No. 8 McRoberts in three, winning the third 27-25.
The AA semifinals will be played on adjacent courts at 5 p.m. Friday. The spike competition will follow those two games with the AAA semis then starting at about 8:15.