BSS Whalers take sixth
They were part of what is already being ranked up there as a tournament classic, and Ballenas Secondary School’s senior girls volleyball team is done for the season having finished sixth out of 16 teams at their AAA provincial championships.
With so many games to be played, the big annual showcase, which featured three days of exciting competition, was actually played out at three local gyms, with Oceanside Middle School and KSS pressed into service.
The Whalers looked to be right on course when they cruised to a straight set win over the Sutherland Sabres from North Van in their opener Thursday morning, but losses to Abby’s MEI Eagles and the McRoberts Strikers from Richmond that afternoon left the Island champs sitting third in their pool.
The Whalers opened Friday’s round of 16 with a sweet 29-27, 25-15 sweep of the Mark Isfeld Ice.
Against second-ranked Crofton House (number six on the list of Canada’s Top 25 private schools), in game two, the Whalers left all on the court but came up short in a thriller.
“What a match,” one local dad croaked the next day. “I’ve never cheered so much in my life.”
Amped and ready and playing in front of a gym packed with supporters on the loud side, the hometown girls shocked the favoured Mainlanders with a 25-20 opening set win.
“From that point on the lead swung back and forth,” said BSS coach John Philip, with Crofton winning the second set 25-20, Ballenas winning the third 25-23, and Crofton taking the fourth, 25-23.
In the tie-breaking fifth set Ballenas was leading 10-4, “unfortunately we got stuck there,” said Philip, explaining how a combination of good serving, poor passing and their strongest player attacking, cleared the way for a 15-11 come-from-behind win for CH.
“It was heart breaking,” conceded the veteran skipper. “We were within two points of winning the fourth set, and then to have such a commanding lead evaporate in the fifth ... that’s volleyball.
“There were two outstanding matches in this tournament which showcased the quality of girls high school volleyball,” he said, pointing to the Ballenas/Crofton game, and the final between Crofton and Seaquam.
“As a coach you cannot ask for anything more than your team to have their best performance at the end of the season. My team did just that,” said Philip.
Crofton was stubborn, but Seaquam was just too strong as the Chargers from Delta grabbed the hardware in a great gold medal match.
The Whaler girls regrouped Saturday morning and pulled off their own comeback as they beat MEI 27-25, 25-16.
“A come-from-behind victory is always nice,” said Philip, pointing to back row specialist Olivia Buksa and Grade 10 Nicole Lublinkoff as the catalysts.
“Olivia was excellent on serve receive, and Nicole came off the bench to serve for four points when we were behind 17-20,” said their coach, adding MEI was pretty disheartened after losing that set, and we easily beat them in the second set.”
It was a tired Whalers team that closed out the tourney with a 2-1 loss to Little Flower Academy. The Whalers finished the tourney in sixth place — they went in ranked fourth.
“Our goal was to make it into the top eight and then shoot for a top-four finish,” said Philip. “We came within two points of meeting that goal.”
Grade 11 right side hitter Alex Cloutier was named to the second all star team, and Philip was quick to thank the parties that be at BSS who “did a fantastic job of hosting, and we are very thankful for the assistance of Kevin McKee at Oceanside Middle School and Butch Gayton at Kwalikum who allowed us to take over their gyms.”
Ballenas will lose Grade 12 middle blocker Lainey Jantzi to graduation, “otherwise the rest of the team will be intact.”