South Surrey volleyball teams qualify for provincial championships

EMS senior girls team wins second consecutive Valley crown with win Thursday in Mission.

The Earl Marriott Mariners have another banner to add to the gym walls, after the school’s senior girls volleyball team won a Fraser Valley title Thursday night in Mission.

But they aren’t the only South Surrey volleyball squad to have punched their ticket to provincial championships last week – a handful of others from across the Semiahmoo Peninsula also earned berths into their respective B.C. tournaments with strong showings on the court in recent days.

At the senior girls quad-A tournament, the aforementioned Mariners defeated their crosstown rival Semiahmoo Totems in the title game to give South Surrey a one-two finish in the regional tournament. Both teams qualified for provincials – set for the end of the month at the Langley Events Centre – by virtue of their spots on the podium. Cloverdale’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers finished fourth, losing the bronze-medal game to the host Mission Secondary Roadrunners.

At the senior boys AAA tournament, hosted at both EMS and Delta secondaries, South Surrey schools finished in three of the top four spots – Marriott placed second after losing to Delta in the championship game Friday, Semiahmoo was third and the Elgin Park Orcas fourth. All three sides will compete at provincial championships which, like the senior girls’ event, will be held in Langley at the LEC on the last weekend of November.

The Seaquam Seahawks, from North Delta, rounded out the top five.

For the victorious Earl Marriott senior girls, Thursday night’s win marks their second straight Fraser Valley title; the team also won last year’s tournament and entered 2016 provincials ranked No. 1, before finishing third.

The team didn’t lose a set the entire week, earning 3-0 victories over Centennial, Fraser Heights and Mission over the first two days of competition – the Fraser Heights’ victory secured the team a provincial berth, which EMS coach Mark Cassell called “a big relief,” – and then beat Semiahmoo in the title game, also by a 3-0 score (25-22, 25-23, 26-24).

“We were fortunate a few times (throughout the tournament) not to lose a game, and (against Semiahmoo), we were definitely fortunate. We were down a couple times and were able to fight back, and then a couple times we were up, and they were able to fight back, so it was a very interesting game,” Cassell said.

“It was a close match, and we figured it would be. They’re a very good team. It was exciting – a good experience for the girls.”

Making the banner win even more impressive for Cassell’s crew was the fact that they won without one of their most important player, Grade 12 left-side power hitter Danika Cowie, who sat out with a sprained knee suffered at Coquitlam’s Red Serge Classic earlier this month.

“For us to pull it out (without Cowie) was pretty good. We had enough depth to keep it going – even some of the other coaches were talking about our depth, and how we had so many other players step up and fill in,” Cassell explained.

“When you lose someone like that, it creates a big hole, but everyone did a good job, so we can’t complain. Injuries happen – that’s sports – but it worked out pretty good.”

With regard to Cowie being available to play at provincials, Cassell said he was “hoping for the best.”

“You never know how it’ll play out – I’d list her as questionable, how about that?”

In advancing to the Fraser Valley title game, Semiahmoo Totems head coach Paisley Poelzer said her squad “played the best volleyball I have seen from them this year.”

Prior to their date with the Mariners in the final, Semi beat Kwantlen Park, Fraser Heights and Seaquam.

“The team was obviously disappointed that they did not bring home the banner but are still very happy with finishing second,” Poelzer said.

“With seven players to draw from last year’s provincial tournament experience, we are hoping for another great run this year.”

Earl Marriott’s Tori Dams was named tournament MVP, while her teammate Tyra Anderson, Semiahmoo’s Alexa Porpaczy and Kalissa Beltran and Sedona Arabsky from Lord Tweedsmuir were named to the all-star team, as was Seaquam’s Brynn Pasin. In early November, Pasin was the MVP of the Peace Arch News Classic.

Prior to Friday night’s final of the Fraser Valley senior boys tourney, EMS coach Al Schill told Peace Arch News he expected a tough match – “Seaquam always plays us tough,” he said – and his prediction proved true, as the match went the distance, with Delta eventually winning in five sets (25-21, 23-25, 19-25, 26-24, 15-13).

EMS defeated Seaquam two days before in order to advance to the finals, while Delta defeated Elgin Park in the other semifinal. That result set up an Elgin-Semiahmoo bronze-medal match, which was won by the Totems, 3-1 (22-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-13).

“We won the first set and were in it for awhile, but their big man, Michael Downhaniuk, was tough to defend against,” Elgin Park head coach Melissa Bonn explained.

Delta’s Markus Neibuhr was named tournament MVP, while all-star nods went to Gavin Payne (Delta), Chris Hamilton (EMS), Ben Schill (EMS), Adam Paige (Semiahmoo), Dowhaniuk (Semiahmoo) and Luke Stroud (Elgin Park).

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