Warriors win Fraser Valley volleyball title
When White Rock Christian Academy's senior girls volleyball team heads to B.C. single-A volleyball provincials in Castlegar later this month, they'll be aiming for a podium spot that has eluded them since 2009.
Three years ago, they finished third, and have followed that with fifth- and sixth-place results in the last two years. It's a streak they'd very much like to end, said WRCA coach Kelli Niemi.
"That quarter-final game the last couple provincials has really given us trouble," she said.
"So we'd like to get past that, and win our first couple playoff games this time, and put ourselves in a better spot."
The Warriors will likely head into the provincial tournament, which begins Nov. 29, as a top-four seed after claiming a Fraser Valley title last Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre, which played host to all Valley finals, from single-A to 4A, both boys and girls.
WRCA defeated Langley Christian to claim the single-A girls title, winning in four games (29-31, 25-10, 27-25, 26-24).
"We certainly didn't play our best, but we played well enough to win," Niemi said. "It was very, very close."
Close enough that all but the Warriors' 25-10 win was decided by two points, with a comeback in the third contest required to win; at one point WRCA trailed in that game 19-11.
White Rock libero Tana Whitmarsh was named tournament MVP, while two of her teammates, Remi Kandal and Adriana Weber, were named to the all-star team.
Looking ahead to provincials, Niemi thinks her side has as good a chance as any to win it all.
"There's a couple teams from the Okanagan who are very good, but we'll be in there, too. The girls are very excited."
At the AAA senior girls level, Cloverdale's Clayton Heights Night Riders will be at provincials after winning bronze at Fraser Valleys. The tournament is set for Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Little Flower Academy and Crofton House in Vancouver.
A pair of South Surrey senior boys teams are also preparing for a run at a provincial title, as both the Earl Marriott Mariners and Elgin Park Orcas finished in the top five at triple-A Fraser Valleys, and now head to B.C. championships in Kelowna, Nov. 28-Dec. 1.
EMS, ranked No. 4 in the province, finished second, losing a tough five-game match to No. 1-ranked Fraser Heights. Elgin, also ranked in the provincial Top 10 for much of the season, nabbed the fourth Valley seed.
The Fraser Valley final was a rematch of two Surrey foes who've now played five times this season – Fraser Heights holds a 3-2 advantage – and will play again on the first day of triple-A provincials, when all the top teams play each other in the Power Pool portion of the event.
"It was a bit of a bummer to lose that one, because we were right there (with a chance to win), but it's OK – we're going to provincials, and we'll see them again," EMS coach Richard Thain said.
The Mariners had a pair of players named to the Valley all-star team, Chris Wilson and Braden Thain.
"It's more of a team thing – we could've had three or four all-stars, because so many guys played well," the coach said.
Thain predicted provincials will be a dogfight, as there is very little separation, talent-wise, between the top four teams in the province – Fraser Heights, Kelowna, Oak Bay and EMS.
"We're confident going in, but certainly not over-confident," he said.
"The competition is so tight that any of those four could win the championship. It's not like some years where there's one clear favourite – you really won't know who is going to take it until the final on Saturday night."