By Bob Carter
Van Tech got the jump on Moscrop Friday night and beat the Panthers in four sets to gain Saturday’s AAA finals at Langley Events Centre.
The scores were 25-23, 26-24, 20-25, 25-20.
The second-seeded Talismen will play No. 1 Earl Marriott for gold.
“Moscrop came out strong, and we did too,” Tech coach Aaron Lock said. “The first two sets showed just how close the teams are.”
The Talismen lost starting setter Nathan Ho to an ankle injury in the third set, and Melvin Mallari took his place.
“He did a fantastic job,” Lock said. “He was fearless. Most setters would be scared to death in that situation.
“Our team around him gave him energy and confidence.”
Van Tech, which lost twice to Earl Marriott during the season, is the first Lower Mainland team to gain the AAA finals since McNair in 1979.
By Bob Carter
Van Tech and Moscrop not only gained AAA playoff victories on Friday, advancing to a semifinal meeting Friday night, they assured something of an historical note.
On Saturday night, the Lower Mainland zone will have its first school playing for AAA gold in 39 years — since Matthew McNair won the title in 1979.
Van Tech and Moscrop both won 3-0, the Talismen beating Mount Baker 30-28, 25-16, 25-21, and Moscrop squeezing past Oak Bay 25-19, 27-25, 26-24.
Van Tech, which earned a No. 2 seed at the Provincials, won both matches between the teams this year, taking the Zone final 3-0 but being pushed in Wednesday’s pool meeting 2-1 (15-11).
“It will be a very tough match with the improvement they’ve made,” said Tech coach Aaron Lock. “They match up well with us.”
The Talismen got strong play Friday from standout outside hitters Lachlan McBride and Karsten Nielsen-Rooney, and a big boost from right side Preetpaul Chhoker, whom Lock said was offensively, “playing exceptionally well.”
Lock said his team was more in form today than earlier in the tournament, stepping up its defence to scramble for more balls and running its middle attack better through Lucas Grant and Andy Cheng.
* MOSCROP HITTERS EXCEL: Co-coach Tatsuki Taylor thought defence and blocking were at a high level. The play of outside hitters Martin Prinsloo, Ted Graveson and Marcus Wong was critical to the Panthers’ success against Oak Bay, which had lost a close meeting earlier in the season.
“Our defence was scrapping, so we had to hit a lot of high balls out of system,” Taylor said. “But they (outsides) were effective in hitting whatever sets they got.”
Setter Ryan Kam also played well, he said.
The Panthers’ progression through the season has a heavy mental side, too.
Assistant Tyler Murphy noted that the players have had to work beyond the simple win model of “wanting it more” and learn that the means can be as significant as the ends.
“We’ve talked about ‘how are you going to get there? How are you going to do it,’ “ Murphy said. “That helps them.”
Taylor said the last game against Van Tech represented a “big improvement, and we have to build off that.”