For members of Semiahmoo Secondary’s junior girls volleyball team, the third time was – finally – the charm.
All season long, the South Surrey squad was among the province’s best, routinely at or near the top of the provincial rankings. However, in the biggest moments – the playoffs – they always seemed to draw the short straw, losing both the Surrey championship final and Fraser Valley final to Pacific Heights.
On their third and final attempt, however, the No. 3-seeded Totems finally came out on top, winning a provincial junior girls championship Saturday night at Earl Marriott Secondary.
Semiahmoo – which also had a second-place finish at the senior-team dominated Peace Arch News Classic tournament in October – defeated Cloverdale’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers 2-0 (25-15, 25-21) in the final game to claim top spot.
“It was pretty awesome,” said Semiahmoo coach Gord Houchen. “You finish second so many times, and I think the kids were just hungry. We played our best on the Saturday, for sure.”
Despite their string of second-place finishes this season, the Totems are no stranger to championship banners. Last year as a strictly Grade 9 team, the Houchen-coached crew won a provincial Grade 9 championship with a win over Langley Christian.
Pacific Academy ensured the podium was an all-Surrey affair, winning the bronze-medal game over Vernon’s W.L. Seaton Secondary.
Pacific Academy and Semiahmoo seemed destined for another championship rematch, but lost its semifinal contest to Tweedsmuir. Semiahmoo won its semifinal tilt over Seaton. Another higher-ranked team that had also given the Totems trouble earlier in the season – No. 2 ranked Kelowna – also fell out of contention early, after losing in quarter-finals.
“Everything sort of fell into place and put us in a nice position,” Houchen said.
Prior to the elimination rounds, Semiahmoo placed first in Pool C with victories over Okanagan Mission Secondary (25-18, 25-8) and St. Michaels (25-10, 25-12). Tweedsmuir also won Pool D with wins over Duchess Park and South Kamloops. Other local teams competing at the South Surrey-hosted tournament included Elgin Park (third in Pool B), Earl Marriott (second in Pool E), Seaquam (first in Pool G) and South Delta (third in Pool H).
Semiahmoo, Houchen pointed out, nearly met the same fate as their fellow highly ranked team that were upset by lower-seeded squads. In their first playoff game, the Totems faced No. 4 Duchess Park from Prince George – a tough first-round matchup that was a result of Duchess finishing second in its pool, rather than first.
The Prince George squad defeated Semi 33-31 in the first game, before the South Surrey side stormed back to take the next two, advancing to the next round in the process.
“That was our toughest match of the whole tournament, and I think it really helped us,” Houchen said. “We always say to the girls that there is going to be adversity – there’s always going to be a point in a tournament where you can be out. It makes you realize that it’s going to be tough.
“Once we got through that first round, and got a bit of a scare, we just got on a roll.”
From there, Semiahmoo beat Van Tech in quarter-finals, before matching up with Seaton and Tweedsmuir the rest of the way.
Houchen said his defence was the key to his team’s success.
“It was the best defence we’ve played… we were chasing balls and diving. We are always a strong hitting team, so when we get both aspects of our game going strong, we’re tough to beat.”
Semiahmoo’s Tara Wallack was named tournament MVP, and first-team all-star nods went to Nicole Pajic (Semi), Katherine Eckert and Sydney Wright (both Tweedsmuir) and Nicola Billows and Kennedy Primrose (both Pacific Academy).
Semiahmoo’s Annika Vosloh was also named a second-team all-star.
Houchen was also quick to heap praise upon Izzy Forsyth, who played middle and back row for the Totems.
“Whenever there are things like all-stars, you always say, ‘Oh, you missed one’ and Izzy was very big for us. I just don’t take her out very often,” Houchen explained. “She was our unsung hero and an all-star in my mind, for sure.”
Surrey senior volleyball teams are in action across the province this week, as provincial tournaments hit the court.
Both of Earl Marriott’s senior teams will be in action, as the boys compete at the triple-A senior boys tourney at the Langley Events Centre beginning Nov. 28 and running until Dec. 1, and the girls head to Penticton for the quad-A B.C. championships, which begin Thursday and wrap up Saturday. Elgin Park’s senior boys will also compete in the Langley tournament, along with other local schools, including Surrey Christian, Princess Margaret, Delta and Seaquam.
The Elgin Park Orcas senior girls – winners of last week’s Fraser Valley triple-A crown – will be in Powell River for triple-A provincials, which run Thursday to Saturday. They are the only Surrey team in the 16-team field.
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