It wasn’t easy, but the Whalers persevered and won their first tournament of the season on home court last weekend, as they took top spot at the annual Ballenas Fall Classic senior girls volleyball tournament.
The tournament win, conceded longtime BSS skipper John Philip, “felt really good. We certainly had to work hard for it — really hard. I’m really pleased with the way the girls played and I’m sure they are too.”
The upstart Whalers, who went into the tournament ranked fifth in the province with only one Grade 12 player in the linuep, opened Friday with straight-set wins over Vanier and Oak Bay and beat NDSS in three to finish first in Pool A.
BSS opened the playoffs Saturday with a straight set win over their KSS counterparts, then dug deep to defeat the Dover Bay Dolphins 25-22, 25-21 in the semifinal.
“We have not beaten them this year — actually we haven’t beaten them for several years,” said coach Philip, adding ,“throughout the whole tournament our two middle blockers (Lainey Jantzi and Hannah Hay) dominated the play, and Dover Bay just couldn’t stop them.”
In the tournament final that afternoon against the Highland Raiders —in the top four in AA provincial standings — the Whalers showed plenty of pluck and had to stay poised to pull it off.
Ballenas was leading the first set 23-21 but surrendered four straight points to lose 25-23.
The Whalers called a time out, regrouped, and took the next two sets — 25-21, 15-13.
“What we did was we changed our team defence so that we were able to better defend against their best player,” Philip said when asked what the keys to victory were.
“And secondly Emma McNicholl played outstanding defence for us, and the third thing was Lainey played her best match of the year — her serving, her kills and her blocking were game changers.”
Indeed. The Whalers were trailing the Raiders by three points in the final set when Lainey, the only senior on the team, reeled off five straight serving points to put them in the lead.
It was the third straight weekend the Whalers have faced Highlands in their final game of a tournament, and first win.
BSS will have over a week to prepare for the seven-team AAA Sr. Girls Island Championships slated for Mark Isfeld in Courtenay Secondary School Nov. 18-19. Because of so few AAA teams on the Island, there is no longer a North Island playdown.
As hosts of the 16-team BC Championships slated for Dec. 1-3 at BSS, the Whalers are assured a berth in the provincials.