Serena de Waal of the Kwalikum Secondary School senior girls volleyball team delivers a hit as the team practises Tuesday for next week’s AA Provincial Championships.

KSS volleyball team ends provincial drought

Kondors earn first B.C. championship berth in upset at Island tourney

The top volleyball teams on Vancouver Island may have been surprised when the Kwalikum Secondary School senior girls claimed second place at last weekend’s Island AA championships in Saanich.

But they weren’t as surprised as the Kondors.

“This is a brand-new team, so we were all shocked,” said Allie Proctor, the only returning member of last year’s senior team. “It shouldn’t be. It was such a surprise; unbelievable.”

It may also be history-making. When KSS takes to the floor in the AA provincials at Abbotsford’s Mennonite Educational Institute Dec. 1-3, it will likely be the first time for a Kwalikum girls team.

“We believe we’re the first KSS team to make it to provincials,” head coach Tom Biggs said. “I know the boys have been a few times, but I’m not aware of the girls ever having gone.”

The Kwalikum Secondary School senior girls volleyball team has qualified for its first trip to the AA provincial championships Dec. 1-3. Front row, from left: Mackenzie Crossley, Luanna Zaiba Chaves, Serena de Waal and Teagan Howden. Back row: Coach Tom Biggs, Arleigh Chambers, Bobbi Babiuk, Lydia Weisner, Allie Proctor, Jessica Kennedy, Kaylee Drinkwater and assistant coach Gabby Wratislav. — Photo submission: Tom Biggs

And at the beginning of the season, nothing suggested this would be the group to do so.

Not only did the team graduate all of its players from a year ago, but all but one of the girls are Grade 11s up from last year’s juniors, playing for the first time at this level.

The lone Grade 12, Teagan Howden, is a transfer student from the Sunshine Coast who last played the sport in Grade 9.

“I just wanted to play with friends,” said Howden.

The Kondors needed to survive an elimination game in the North Island tournament a week earlier, just to grab the eighth and final seed into last week’s Island championships at Parkland Secondary School.

They then lost their first two pool-round games at the Islands before storming back through three more potential season-ending matches to earn a spot in the final against eventual Island champion Brentwood College. Only the top two teams from the Island move on to provincials.

“Going into Islands, we thought at least we made it this far, and it’s exciting,” Proctor said. “But we expected to be sort of at the bottom. It’s a surprise for being the last slot, being ranked eighth and then placing second.”

Biggs said the entire season was an up-and-down affair — as expected from a new group of first-year seniors. He and assistant coach Gabby Wratislav, like their players, never saw the surprising Island run coming.

“I’m not sure what it was, but the girls never let a loss bother them,” said Biggs. “Even when they’d lose to a team, they came back and beat them when it mattered. They seemed to play better with their backs against the wall.”

That happened at the North Island tourney earlier this month, when the Kondors faced an elimination game against a Shawnigan Lake team that had beat them handily earlier.

KSS won the match to secure the fourth and final spot from the Mid-Island North division into Islands.

They then lost consecutive matches to Pacific Christian, the top-seeded team from the South, and Shawnigan Lake to open the Island tournament. But they rallied with a win over host Parkland in their final pool game, then charged through the loser-out playoff bracket with a rematch victory over Shawnigan Lake and a win over Ladysmith to reach the finals.

“We went back to the basics and what we worked on all year, and that worked out for us,” said Proctor. “We were playing more calmly and less freaked out because we weren’t expecting to go to provincials. It was like a bonus.”

The Kondors players and coaches will face much stronger competition next week at provincials, but Biggs believes the experience will be valuable to a group that should return largely intact next fall to try another run through the post-season.

“The experience of playing there will tell them how good they want to be and how hard they want to work for next year,” said Biggs. “And these girls have worked hard.”

Proctor still has trouble believing how it came about.

“Last year our whole team was Grade 12s except me,” she said. “I was like, ‘It’s OK, I’ve always got next year. But they were all, like, crying because they were done and they’re never going to play again.”

In addition to Proctor and Howden, the Kwalikum team includes Grade 11s Serena de Waal, Jessica Kennedy, Bobbi Babiuk, Kaylee Drinkwater, Lydia Weisner, Mackenzie Crossley, Arleigh Chambers and newcomer Luanna Zaiba Chaves, an exchange student from Brazil.

Above: Lydia Weisner of the Kwalikum Secondary School senior girls volleyball team practices at the school Tuesday as the Kondors prepare for the Dec. 1-3 provincial AA championships. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

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