The Earl Marriott Mariners’ trip to Vancouver Island last weekend was a successful one, as the school’s senior girls volleyball team placed second at BC High School quad-A volleyball championships at Nanaimo’s Dover Bay Secondary.
The team was seeded seventh heading into the 16-team showdown, but got better as the weekend progressed, cruising through the playoff rounds before running into the top-seeded Handsworth Royals in the finals, losing 3-0.
“We went on a nice little run,” explained EMS coach Mark Cassell. “But Handsworth is a pretty good team. They have a full-on Grade 12 lineup, and they don’t make many mistakes.”
The Mariners, by contrast, had just one Grade 12 starter, though they were able to find playoff success by improving on defence and “getting hot at the right time.”
“We didn’t let many balls hit the floor, so that really helps,” Cassell said.
After round-robin play, the Mariners hit the court against Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens in the first round Friday, dispatching them 3-1 to move on to quarter-finals, where they faced off against Vancouver’s Sir Winston Churchill Secondary, winning in three straight.
In semifinals, the Mariners faced Oak Bay Secondary – a team led, according to Cassell, by “one really outstanding player.”
Nevertheless, Marriott was able to neutralize the Oak Bay star en route to a 3-0 win to advance to the championship game against Handsworth.
“We played well all weekend, though maybe not as well as we could have in the finals,” said Cassell. “But it just came down to experience. Handsworth was really tough.”
A few days removed from their silver-medal performance, Cassell said he and his girls are better able to appreciate their strong showing – finishing five spots higher than they were originally seeded. But in the moment, Cassell said the girls were upset, even though Handsworth was the No. 1 seed.
“They’re competitors and they weren’t happy – they went there to win, and they wanted it,” he said. “But now, 48 hours later, you realize how well you did.
“I’m really proud of the girls.”
Last year, Earl Marriott finished fifth at provincials, and will likely be among the contenders next year, considering the team will graduate only three Grade 12s from this year’s squad.
Two Mariners were named to the tournament’s first all-star team – Grade 10 Danika Cowie and Grade 12 captain Cara Keturakis, who will play next season at Point Loma Nazarene University, an NCAA Div. 2 school in San Diego.
“She’s a pretty outstanding player. She was our heart and soul, and really led the way for us,” Cassell said.
Three Surrey teams finished in the top 10 at BC Boys AAA Volleyball Championships, held last weekend at the Langley Events Centre.
The Fraser Heights Firehawks, Earl Marriott Mariners and Surrey Christian Falcons finished seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.
Marriott, the only south-end team in the tournament, went into the event ranked 10th, though they lost their final three games.
In the first playoff game, the Round of 16, EMS edged Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators, but lost in quarter-finals to Dover Bay, despite leading at one point.
“We were up 2-1, but we just couldn’t finish,” said EMS coach Dave Dooley.
After being sent to the consolation bracket – but still with a shot to win their way back into contention – the Mariners dropped their final two games, to Kelowna and Fraser Heights.
“We had leads, but we just never started well in those deciding sets,” Dooley explained. “We’d give them leads, and we’d play well after that, but you can’t play from behind the whole time.”
Despite losing their final three games of the season, Dooley said he was pleased with how his team battled all year, especially considering they played much of the schedule shorthanded, with just nine players.
“If you go back to tryouts, where we had four guys show up, and then realize we had to call up a couple Grade 10s – if you’d told me back then that we’d still be in contention in the fifth set of the Round of 16 at provincials, I’d think we’d be pretty happy with that,” Dooley said.