A little less than two months ago, the Elgin Park Orcas’ senior boys volleyball team had not won a tournament in 15 years.
Fast forward to late November, and not only has this year’s team broken that long-running tournament-losing streak after a win in early October at a Trinity Western University-hosted event – they’ve also captured a playoff banner. And they’ve done so without two of their top players.
Earlier this month, the Orcas won the South Fraser championships, defeating Richmond’s McMath Secondary in four sets to win the gold-medal game.
And while the victory was impressive, simply navigating through the earlier playoff rounds to get to that point was a challenge for the Orcas, who have been ranked No. 2 in B.C. triple-A boys rankings for much of the season, just behind the top-ranked Kelowna Owls.
Right before the playoffs were to begin, Elgin Park lost one of its top players, with head coach Matt Ekholm explaining that he stepped away from the team for personal reasons. Adding to that were injuries, including to libero Gabe Ferreira, who missed a month of the season but did return just in time for playoffs.
“Obviously Gabe was a little rusty at first, and we had another one of our starting left sides hurt and out for the playoffs, too, so it was looking pretty bleak at one point,” Ekholm told Peace Arch News.
“Basically, we had to change our entire style of play. All year, we were kind of a very high-powered, offensive team and we lost two of those weapons so we had to change and become a scrappy, defensive, work-for-every-point kind of team.
“Any other team, in that situation, might have just packed it in and called it a day, but these guys just picked it up and kept going.”
Among the changes the team had to make, Ekholm said, were moving star setter Nick Johnson to the right side, and then bumping No. 2 setter, Grade 11 Wyatt Davis, into the No. 1 role.
“The setter is kind of the quarterback of the team, and (Wyatt) stepped up to really lead us – it was awesome to see,” Ekholm said.
Johnson was named Fraser Valley MVP, while Ferreira and Kendall Homenick were named tournament all-stars.
Next up for the team is a trip to provincial triple-A championships, which were originally scheduled for the end of this week in Kelowna, but were pushed ahead one week due to flooding and highway closures across the province. Now, the 20-team tournament is set to run Dec. 8-11, and while Kelowna is still listed as the host city, Ekholm suggested that could still change, too, depending on travel issues for teams involved.
Like their senior counterparts, Elgin Park Secondary’s junior boys volleyball team also found success on the court this season, recently finishing fourth at Coastal B.C. provincial championships last weekend.
The Orcas entered the tournament as the ninth seed, but had what head coach Mike Jamieson called “a Cinderella run” to the semifinals. In quarter-finals, they defeated M.E.I.
Elgin Park had an undefeated regular season, and also won a Surrey championship banner and finished third at South Fraser championships.
Kai Nagamatsu was named a first-team all-star at both provincial and South Fraser tournaments.