by Bob Carter
Langley Fundamental knocked off a higher seed for the second day in a row Friday, vaulting to Saturday’s gold medal match in AA against No. 1 MEI in Langley.
The young, sixth-seeded Titans swept past Pacific Academy, the second seed, in three sets. After beating third seed Langley Christian on Thursday and now PA, the big question arises: Can they knock off a third Fraser Valley rival and win their second title in three years?
MEI brushed off a rare first-set loss to Clarence Fulton in its semi and rolled to a 21-25, 25-14, 25-11, 25-20 win.
Fundy had gone 1-2 against PA this season, losing badly in the zone bronze medal match.
After that one, coach Dan Johnson called for some new offensive strategy.
“Some of our guys were getting tentative on their hits,” he said. “We told them to attack the block rather than hitting around it.”
Max Heppell and Phil Stahl enjoyed the smash-mouth game Friday, leading to a 25-21, 25-23, 25-18 victory.
Johnson thought the match turned when his team overcame a four-point deficit in the second set and took a 2-0 lead.
“Our whole team was engaged tonight,” said Johnson, whose offence has percolated since moving setter Zec Johnson to an attacking role.
Fulton standout Danny Aspenlieder was in attacking beast mode in the first set against MEI, breathing hopes of an upset into the Maroons.
But MEI quickly turned the match around, taking control of the second and third sets.
“We finally started picking him up,” Eagles coach Jordan Geransky said of Aspenlieder, who is heading to UBC next year. “Not that we totally stopped him. Defensively, he’s too good for one or two people to handle.”
Moving their attacking star, Trinity Western signee Kaden Gamache, to face up more with Aspenlieder helped the Eagles picked up steam.
“Kaden had an extra-special game,” Geransky said. “Jared Reid (libero) was the other piece in turning it around. He had some key digs and quarterbacked the back row. He figured out his passing, which was important to us running our offence.”
Fundy’s new and improved attack will demand a little extra preparation, Geransky indicated.
“It’s creating some new pressure to figure out,” he said. “They’re surely playing like a team on fire.”
Langley Fundamental’s sixth-seeded Titans got a bigger challenge than they expected Thursday afternoon but survived in four sets as they advanced to the AA quarterfinals.
An energized DP Todd team went blow for blow with Fundy in the second set, and powered by late kills from Cameron Cain and Joel Ingham, took the set 33-31.
“We underestimated them,” Titans coach Dan Johnson said, “and they played well against us. Our energy level wasn’t there.”
Fundy’s blocking improved late in the third set as the Titans erased a 3-point deficit and took the final two sets 22 and 19.
“Our guys started penetrating on our blocks,” Johnson said, “and that really helped.”
The Titans, who have only one Grade 12 starter (Luc Degianni) were led by Grade 11s Phil Stahl, Max Heppell and Zec Johnson, Dan’s son.
“We moved Zec from setting to power after the Fraser Valleys,” the coach said, “and it has given us another hitting option. He’s also a good passer.”
Fundamental, which won the BC’s in 2013, will play in Thursday’s quarterfinals against third seed Langley Christian. LCS beat Woodlands 25-15, 25-19, 25-23.