When the B.C. Junior Boys Volleyball Championships began last week in Abbotsford, it’s a safe bet to assume that not many predicted the Earl Marriott Mariners would be in the championship game a few days later.
The Mariners were, after all, ranked 12th in the 20-team tournament. But, pre-tournament seeding be damned, the championship game was exactly where Marriott’s junior side found itself Saturday, battling Abbotsford’s MEI Eagles – the defending champions – for first place.
In the end, the Eagles repeated as champs, defeating Marriott in three straight games, but the loss did little to take the shine of the Mariners’ performance in Abby, which saw them knock off a number of higher-ranked teams en route to the silver-medal position.
And while Marriott’s head coach Derrick Moore wasn’t 100 per cent certain the second-place showing was the best an EMS junior boys team had ever finished at provincials, he did know, at the very least, it had not happened for quite a long time.
“I’m still trying to find out (if it’s the best-ever). Some coaches at provincials told me they thought it was our first time to even get to the medal round. And on the trophy, our name isn’t on it anywhere, and it goes back 15-20 years, so it’s been a long time, at least,” Moore said.
“It’s quite an accomplishment for the boys.”
In pool play, the Mariners went undefeated, beating, D.P Todd (25-13, 25-19), Burnaby’s Centennial Centaurs (25-14, 25-12) and the second-seeded Clarence Fulton Maroons from Vernon (25-23, 25-19).
And while success in the round-robin portion of the tournament gave the junior squad a boost heading into the weekend, their high seeding for the playoff rounds had another added bonus once the draw was finalized – they’d avoid top-seeded MEI until the final round.
“Staying away from MEI until the end really worked out for us,” said Moore. “Last year, the opposite happened, and we ended up playing them, and losing, very early.”
While avoiding the Eagles was a nice bonus, the Mariners still did not have the easiest path to the finals.
In the quarter-finals, EMS edged Langley Fundamental School to advance, but Moore said “it was very close.”
“We have had problems with them all season (in league play),” the coach said.
“And we’ve had a really good rivalry all season, so to knock them off, that was pretty great. It was big for us.”
In semifinals, Earl Marriott faced, and defeated, another foe familiar to them from earlier in the season – Langley Christian.
The second-place finish was the best the South Surrey team had fared all playoffs, after placing third in Surrey playoffs and finishing in sixth-at Fraser Valley championships.
Moore said at provincials, his team simply “played amazing” while also noting that his long-sought-after perfect line up finally came to fruition, which also helped.
“I’ve been fiddling with the lineup all season long, and we finally found one that worked really well,” he said.
He was also quite to credit his team’s leaders, many of whom have played together for a number of years.
“We do have a good group of leaders here. Guys like Donovan Moore, Allan Hogg and Tyson Smith, those guys have played together for a long time, and when you know each other that well, it surely helps.”
Smith and Hogg were both named to the tournament’s first all-star team.
Two other Surrey players – Chase Wood (Fraser Heights) and Nathan Teasdale (Pacific Academy) – were named to the second all-star team.