Original host Kelowna, loses best player, adapts to new circumstance, after 5 silver medals; finally wins first boys title since 1953
Richmond, BC – Originally supposed to be a coronation on home soil, the Owls from Kelowna Secondary School had to adapt to a relocated tournament, losing their best player and the weight of a history of silver medals.
Kelowna was scheduled to host the ‘AAA’ Boys’ championship this year, but after the flooding and highway washouts the event was originally delayed and then moved to Richmond. With 15 of the qualified teams from the lower mainland, BCSS made the decision, with support of Kelowna to move the event to McMath Secondary and Steveston-London Secondary just days before the event. The challenges didn’t end there as Kelowna lost Sebastian (Seba) Manuel, the grade 12 athlete generally accepted as the best player in the province, on the first point of their 2nd round robin match on day 1 of the tournament. What was supposed to be a team so dominant, playing on their home court, now was being challenged in unexpected ways.
KSS Head Coach Mike Sodaro joined the KSS staff in 2010 and has led the Owls to the provincial championship tournament each year since his arrival. The 10-year run had seen the Owls finish 2nd an unbelievable five times, never being able to secure the coveted BCSS championship banner.
After cruising through the first day of power pools, and then the round-of-16, quarterfinals, and semifinals, without dropping a set, in-fact, no team scored more than 20 points in any of their games. They were met with a talented and athletic team from Elgin Park (Surrey, BC).
Elgin Park, led by Grade 12 setter, Nicholas Johnson, whose ability to put the ball in the perfect spot nearly every time for his hitters, put pressure on the Owls they hadn’t seen throughout the tournament. The first set saw the Owls balanced attack manage the pressure and take a 25-21 victory. The second saw the teams’ trading points, and a 21-21 score, before a big block by Kelowna middle blocker Hudson Farrell, turned the tide and a few Elgin errors led to Kelowna to a 25-22. While nobody would have blamed Elgin for packing it in after being down 0-2, Johnson, with teammate and middle blocker Kendall Homenick found another gear and willed their team to an early lead in the 3rd set. Kelowna pushed to narrow the lead down to three in the middle of set, before Elgin regained control and gave Kelowna its first set loss 25-19.
With Kelowna facing its first test of real adversity in the championships, the question was on how they would respond, and their class showed through. With Grade 11 setter Walker Sodaro, continuing to run the offence seamlessly while still adapting to the loss of Manuel earlier in the tournament, the Owls started to stretch a lead in the middle of the 4th frame, and didn’t let Elgin Park have any momentum. It was fitting when Sodaro went back and served an ace to close out the match and secure Kelowna’s first Boys’ volleyball title since 1953 (68 years).
Kelowna Coach Mike Sodaro in post-game remarks stated
“I will tell you this. These players have been coached by a number of coaches from Kelowna over the years and we are fortunate to have a coaching community in Kelowna that takes time to develop these young men into great athletes.” Sodaro continued “They have all followed the KSS volleyball program over the years and we were committed from day 1 to make this the year that we finally got that Gold Medal. We are so proud of them, and their hard work has paid off, even when our team Captain went out. This was a great TEAM effort. Special thanks to my coaching staff Brady and Steve.”
A semi-final for the history books
Elgin Park had an interesting journey just to make it to Saturday’s championship match. They defeated a surprising team from Reynolds in the quarter-final, going a thrilling 5-sets before they secured a 15-11 win. This set up a semi-final with host school McMath. While crowds were limited by COVID-19 safety protocols, those in attendance for the home team came to life and willed their team back after losing the first two sets, and McMath obliged, coming back to win the 3rd and 4th to force a 5th set with a trip to the finals on the line.
This is where things got a bit weird. With Elgin up 5-3 in the 5th set, the power went out at the school. The gymnasium was plunged into darkness except for a few emergency lights. The game was paused while BCSS and the school officials determined options. When it became apparent that the outage was widespread across much of Richmond due to the windstorm and likely would be out for a couple of hours, the best option was to move the game to Steveston-London Secondary, who still had power. The teams, officials, and fans packed their things, while caravanning the 3.7km in the dark to the new location. The school had to be unlocked, court set up, bleachers pulled out, but it all happened in minutes. The teams were provided 15 mins to warm up again and the match continued.
It was here that McMath coach Daniel Wong, demonstrated the kind of sportsmanship and leadership you don’t see every day. The rules stipulate that a game that is forced to change location during the match should start the current set over. When arriving at the Steveston-London, while players warmed up, meeting with the Head Official and Tournament Director, Wong, despite being down 5-3, indicated that the game should resume from that point. When asked later about the situation he simply replied, “They had earned that lead, it was the right thing to do to play on from that point.”
BCSS Executive Director, Jordan Abney, who was also serving as Tournament Director due to the last-minute relocation remarked,
“the entire situation was just crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it, but I was just so impressed how everyone handled it. Admin from both schools, the players and coaches, the fans. It was amazing to see the school sport community come together like that. It made me really proud.” Abney continued, “as for Coach Daniel Wong, stating the match continue from that score, what can you say? A display of sportsmanship and leadership you rarely see, especially with so much at stake. Just an impressive leader for those young men he coaches.”
The total delay in the match from when the power went out, to when the ball was put back in play at Steveston-London was 55 minutes. Elgin stretched their lead, before McMath made a late run, tying the game late. Ultimately, Elgin prevailed 15-13 in the 5th, closing out a match that no athlete, coach, official or fan will forget. A match that had a winner and a loser on the scoresheet, but really displayed the very best of school sport.
BCSS 2021 ‘AAA’ BOYS VOLLEYBALL AWARDS
Most Outstanding Player: Walker Sodaro (Setter, Kelowna) Most Outstanding Libero: Steve Yah (Libero, McMath)
First Team All Stars
- Sam Jablonski (Outside Hitter, Kelowna)
- Hudson Farrell (Middle, Kelowna)
- Nicholas Johnson (Setter, Elgin Park)
- Kendall Homenick (Middle, Elgin Park)
- Justin Peng (Outside Hitter, Claremont)
- Tyler Tran (Setter, McMath)
Second Team All Stars
- Gavin Margerison (Middle, Kelowna)
- Zach Yewchuk (Right Side, Elgin Park)
- Ethan Chang (Outside Hitter, McMath)
- Carter Munro (Outside Hitter, Claremont)
- Isaac James (Outside Hitter, Steveston-London)
- Daniel Lafleur (Outside Hitter, Fraser Heights)
- Tristan Cumming (Outside Hitter, Reynolds)
- Nathan Lee (Outside Hitter, Steveston-London)
- Sean Kennedy (Outside Hitter, Belmont)
- Isaac Brajcich (Right Side, Claremont)
- Jake Bolton (Outside Hitter, McMath)
FINAL TEAM PLACINGS
Silver: Elgin Park
5th: Fraser Heights
8th: Oak Bay
10th: David Thompson
12th: Dover Bay
14th: Kwantlen Park
15th: Walnut Grove
16th: Burnaby Central
About BC School Sports
BC School Sports is the governing body for school sport in British Columbia. BCSS offers opportunities for interschool competition in over 19 activities to over 70,000 student-athletes each year. Our membership consists of over 440 member schools, with students in Grades 8-12. School sport returned this fall, after a 17-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BC School Sports Jordan Abney Executive Director
LANGLEY- By Derek Shuel
The stands were packed full of green, black, blue and gold! What a great atmosphere to finish up a successful BC Boys Provincial Championship!
The first set was a classic chess match between two grizzly veteran teams who have found themselves in many a gold medal match from the past. Tonight, in some early key highlights – LCS runs a successful yet difficult slide-overload with middle, Jordan Dickhof (#13), while MEI sticks with solid consistent serving and it’s quick paced offense through their second-team All-Star setter Micah Bucknam. Langley counters with all-star Nic Triemstra establishing himself this set as a force to be reckoned with. As the smoke settled, MEI wins the opening thriller 27-25.
In the second, the chess match continues well into the game having the set tied at 10-10. MEI continues it’s fast paced offense and finds some nice seams in the middle with Trey Smith (#15) and Levi Kropp (#5 ). Having some middle connection helps the Eagles pull away to a score of 19-13. At 24-16, LCS’ all-star left side Jonas Van Huizen (#8) rattles off a number of crowd pleasing spin serves to make it interesting, but MEI takes the set 25-19. Off to the third we go.
With two tape aces on the day for the Eagles’ middle Levi Kropp, MEI soared to an 8-3 start. But, the Lightning didn’t quit fighting as they battled back to 12-14. As we have heard many times in the past, these championships are so very difficult to win. Similar to that of the second set, late in the third set LCS’s Van Huizen spin serves some amazing tough serves and this time helps bring his team back to a tie game 23-23! The crowd is loud and the game is tied! With a few back and forth plays and one very important touch call off of MEI’s Tyson Ardell’s hit, MEI stuns everyone in the gym and quickly wins the Provincial Championship 25-23 and a direct 3-0 win.
At the completion of the game, Coach Olfert of the Eagles stated,
“the way we were able to close it out was very special. I’m really proud of them”.
He continued with,
“how proud I am with how the boys responded through adversity and how they supported each other over the past 4 days. It wasn’t any one player, it was a complete team effort.”
The 2019 edition of the BC Boys Volleyball Championship saw the MEI Eagles capture their AA boys division leading 11th gold medal while the Lightning has 3 gold, 3 silver and four bronze in the past 13 seasons. Needless to say, it was a battle for the ages and the capacity crowd at the LEC was not disappointed. GO EAGLES!
LANGLEY – By Gary Ahuja
An epic three-year run for the Earl Marriott Mariners was capped with yet another championship.
The core of the senior boys’ volleyball team won the junior provincial title (with a perfect season) in 2017 and claimed the senior title last year. And on Saturday night, the Mariners added yet another trophy to the case, shaking off some early nerves to defeat the Kelowna Owls 3-1 in the 3A championship final of the BC Secondary School Volleyball Provincial Championship at Langley Events Centre.
“It is a dream come true. It is not supposed to happen like this,”
admitted Earl Marriott’s Talon McMullin, who earned Most Valuable Player honours while twin brother Takoda picked up a First Team All-Star Award.
“We have just gotten lucky with the guys who have come to our school. We have been a tight-knit group since Grade 8, we have all played club together. To cap it off with another championship … it is just a surreal feeling.”
Kelowna was looking for their first senior boys provincial title in 66 years and they came out firing int eh first set, winning 25-19 as they looked to end their lengthy drought.
“They were just nervous in the first set and we said let’s go back to how we practice in the gym. Just like the gym, forget the crowd and just come back,” said Marriott coach Dale Quiring.
“They are so patient, so disciplined. When things don’t go our way, they just keep it together and focus on the next task that they have to do.”
A key was taking away Kelowna’s line attack, while improving their own block and passing to turn the tide. The Mariners were ruthlessly efficient over the match’s final three sets, winning 25-14, 25-11 and 25-14.
“There was no panic, we had a plan going in, it just took a bit to kick in,” Talon McMullin said.
The Marriott roster features just 10 players and Quiring alluded to the fact that some members battled through undisclosed ailments over the course of the season.
The coach also said the fact his players are multi-sport athletes is a boon to the team as their conditioning is never an issue and instead of devoting time to that in practice, they can instead focus on their volleyball skills.
“We work hard in hard in practice and then they just bring it on the court. When we are dialed and locked in, we are a hard team to beat,” he said.
In the bronze medal game, the Claremont Spartans defeated the Okanagan Mission Huskies. For full results, click here.
LANGLEY- By Gary Ahuja
The season has ended the way it began for the MEI Eagles: with the No. 1 provincial ranking.
For the first five weeks of the 2A senior boys’ season, the Abbotsford school found itself ranked tops. But in late October, the Eagles lost their perch, first to the Abbotsford Christian Knights and then for the month of November, to the Langley Christian Lightning.
On Saturday night, MEI used a 3-0 victory over the Lightning to capture the 2A Boys BC Secondary School Volleyball Provincial Championship title at Langley Events Centre.
The victory is the 11th all-time for MEI at the 2A level (most of any school) and their first since 2015.
Langley Christian has 10 medals (three gold, three silver and four bronze) in the past 13 seasons.
All three sets were competitive with MEI winning 27-25 in the opener, 25-19 in set two and then scoring the final two points to break a tie to prevail 25-23.
“The biggest thing was being steady with our serving and passing. Both teams were trying to establish that. And then hopefully from that, run an effective offence,”
said MEI coach Rocky Olfert.
“That was the biggest thing, trying to be steady and settle the nerves.”
At the Eastern Valley Championships earlier this month, Langley Christian beat the Eagles, to earn both the Zone title and the No. 1 ranking for the 16-team provincial championships.
“That loss really motivated our team, it didn’t bring us down,” said MEI’s Tyson Ardell, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “I felt like after that, we saw a challenge in front of us, we were able to work on our skills and get ready for a rematch.”
The Eagles would prevail in their Power Pool (which featured the top four seeds at provincials: No. 1 Langley Christian, No. 3 Abbotsford Christian and No. 4 George Elliot) dropping just one set out three best-of-three matches on opening day.
From there, the team cruised through the round of 16 and quarterfinals with back-to-back 3-0 wins over Prince Charles and Surrey Christian.
The Eagles then knocked off Abbotsford Christian 3-1 in the semifinals before facing Langley Christian in the gold medal game.
“Embrace the moment, they have earned it. Try and take it all in but also not to make it more than what it is. The points are still the same so be nice and calm and not get too high or too low,”
Olfert said of his pre-game message to his relatively young squad, which has just a pair of Grade 12 starters.
One of those was Ardell, the MVP.
“He has had a phenomenal four days. They always say big players step up in big games and he really did that for us. His leadership really shone through. You could see it in his eyes, his determination, his desire, he wanted the ball. It was really fun to watch,” the coach said.
“He is not naturally an outside hitter, but he really stepped up and it was fun to watch. When we needed something big to happen, he really stepped up.”
In the bronze medal game, Abbotsford Christian needed five sets but they knocked off George Elliot 3-2 in a rematch of last year’s championship final. For full results and standings, click here.
Pacific Academy’s Nathaniel Kang was selected the Most Outstanding Libero.
Roan McCarthy (George Elliot), Josh Aperloo (Abbotsford Christian), Zach Meinen (Abbotsford Christian), Hunter Arul-Pragasam (MEI), Nic Triemstra (Langley Christian) and Jonas Van Huizen (Langley Christian) were selected First Team All-Stars.
The Second Team All-Stars were Elijah Woldringh (College Heights), Juhan Park (Pacific Academy), Tommy Godoy (Pacific Christian), Comrie Engbers (Surrey Christian), Micah Bucknam (MEI) and Austin Duff (George Elliot).
And the Sir Charles Tupper Tigers won the Most Sportsmanlike Team Award.
LANGLEY- Mike Jamieson
2019 AAA Senior Boys Volleyball Provincial Gold Medal Game
Earl Marriott Mariners (#1 rank) Vs Kelowna Owls (#2 rank)
Earl Marriott vs Kelowna. Heavyweight vs Heavyweight.
It had all the glitz and glamour a high school sport could ask for. Two twins, seeking their third straight provincial championship (junior, senior, senior). How do you stop a freight train of experience and excellence? Enter the number two ranked Kelowna Owls and their decades of dominance in high school athletics. Hot off their Friday night win in the semi-finals over the Claremont Spartans, the Owls were seeking to play the upset card Saturday night.
The lights dimmed, the crowd was anxious. Energy was everywhere. The Langley Events Centre was primed for a show. Kelowna came out fast and Kelowna came out often, twice getting leads of four points in the first set. Each time, the Mariners answered. In the crucial moments late in the first set the Owls willed themselves to victory. Braden White, the Kelowna setter had his offence running at full pace. Kelowna took the first set 25-19.
How would the Mariners respond? With the dominance that has defined a generation of volleyball for boys across this province. 25-14, 25-11, 25-14. Every bounce seemed to go their way. Maybe that’s just what happens when you pair Talon and Takoda McMullin with the sharp shooting sets of Josh Quiring. Quiring seemed to be a step ahead for most of the night.
Kelowna Owls head coach Mike Sodaro
“It’s tough, we came out strong and we played a great first game. We knew they weren’t going to back down. They came out and started thundering balls, putting up a big block like we expected. We didn’t expect them to come out that strong in game three. They earned it.’ Sodaro, a high school volleyball icon ‘I’m so happy for our guys. It’s a silver medal. It’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
Earl Marriott Mariners head coach Dale Quiring
“I’ve said it all season, I’m so proud of these boys. They’re so disciplined, they’re patient when things don’t go our way. They still keep it together, they stay strong mentally. We really focused on the mental game this year.”
The win was Earl Marriott’s second straight BC Senior Boys High School Volleyball Provincial Championship.
They were always the best.