All season long, the Earl Marriott Mariners senior boys volleyball team has been at or near the top of the B.C. AAA rankings.
Now, ranked No. 2 and with a Fraser Valley banner to their credit, they’re prepped for a run at the provincial title.
The Mariners – ranked second in B.C. behind the Kelowna Owls – captured the Fraser Valley senior boys banner Tuesday night at the Langley Event Centre after a victory over the Fraser Heights Firehawks.
Semiahmoo placed third at the LEC, and also qualified for the provincial tournament.
Now, EMS will be among the contenders in Kelowna, which is hosting the AAA boys tournament for a 20th – and final – year. Teams will begin play Wednesday.
Fraser Valley title aside, Marriott head coach Bob Smith thinks the best is yet to come for his group.
“We’ve just gotten stronger as the season has gone on,” he said. “We’ve made a few positional changes throughout the year to make sure we’ve got the best lineup possible, and I don’t think we’ve peaked yet – I think we’re still getting better.”
Last year, the Mariners finished fifth at provincials, after being upset in quarter-finals by a lesser seed.
Smith hopes the team’s Fraser Valley triumph is enough to push them over the top. In the last five seasons since Smith took over as coach, the senior boys team has four second-place finishes at Valleys, but never a title.
“After four silvers, finally gold,” Smith said. “It’s nice, especially for our five Grade 12s – they haven’t won a banner since winning the Surrey championships in Grade 8.”
In Tuesday’s final, Fraser Heights took the first game 25-20 – “We got off to a bit of a slow start,” Smith said – before Earl Marriott ran the table, winning the final three.
In the fourth, the Mariners rallied from a 20-18 deficit to win.
“It was really back and forth, the whole game,” Smith said.
“I thought we really dominated the middle two games, but then that last one, it was close. It made it pretty exciting.”
After the game, EMS senior Byron Keturakis was named Fraser Valley league MVP, while, Jacob Smithand Justin Faester and Semi’s Jake Hagen were named all-stars.