Roadrunners seniors (l-r) Kristen McBride, Ashley Bains and Jojo Calverley are set to lead the charge for the seniors girls volleyball team at next week's AAAA Fraser Valley tournament. (not pictured: senior Katelyn Bligh) BEN LYPKA/MISSION RECORD

Provincial dreams for girls volleyball

Senior players lead Mission Roadrunners to eighth overall ranking

The Mission Roadrunners senior girls volleyball team will look to use any advantage possible to keep their strong season going when they host the AAAA Fraser Valley tournament starting on Tuesday.

The team’s secret weapon? It could be the giant beam located in the middle of the Mission Secondary gym.

“It’s hands down our blocker,” quipped Roadrunners senior star Kristen McBride, before Monday’s team practice.

Jokes aside, the 2017 Roadrunners senior girls team has a chance to do something special next week. For the first time in recent memory, Mission hosts the Valleys and it could be the first step for the team to provincial glory.

The team finished first in the AAAA Fraser Valley Tier 1 East standings with a record of six wins and one loss. They also impressed against top competition at tournaments around the province. They finished second at the Camosun Chargers senior girls tournament in Victoria back in October, third at the Timberline Secondary tournament and fifth place at both the Handsworth and Trinity Western University events.

“The team has really been strong all year and we’ve either beaten or competed against nearly every top team in the province,” said the team’s head coach Andrew Hale. “We recognized last year that we had something special when we finished 13th and we had a lot of the same players coming back.”

The team heads into the tournament ranked eighth in the province, and Hale said a big part of that success is due to his four seniors – McBride, Ashley Bains, Jojo Calverley and Katelyn Bligh.

“All four of them are really great leaders and have played and excelled at some of the highest levels in B.C.,” he said. “We’re a deep team, but they’re all committed and most of them play club volleyball or, if they don’t, they play another sport.”

The four seniors have shared the court since Grade 8, and said they relish the role of leaders.

“I think when we’re on the court everyone kind of looks up to us,” Bains said. “If we get down and upset that could get the whole team down. But if we stay positive and up, everyone else will.”

McBride said everyone from last year’s team has made significant improvements this year, and Bains said hard work and camaraderie have helped the Roadrunners excel.

The girls said the leadership program at Hatzic Middle School has helped build volleyball in Mission.

“When we were at Hatzic, the leadership program got us all involved and you really learn skills outside of the game like refereeing that are transferable to other places,” Bains said. “Everyone was a part of it and it really helped us love the game.”

Hale agreed that the grassroots popularity of the sport has been growing in Mission.

“I know the Hatzic program has big time helped to get people involved,” he said. “The elementary programs are really strong out here. Mission has a great history of volleyball – it just took some people to get it going again.”

Hale said it’s a huge advantage to host the tournament.

“I think the girls are excited and it’s a plus getting to sleep in their own beds,” he said.

“It’s going to be really nice not to have to drive for a few hours,” added Calverley.

“The school is super supportive and we’re going to have a big crowd and have all that energy,” Bains said. “It’s going to be super exciting.”

Mission opens the tournament on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of the play-in game between Maple Ridge and Gleneagle.

A win on Tuesday would essentially punch the Roadrunners’ ticket to the provincials.

The tournament continues on Wednesday, with the gold and bronze medal games occurring on Thursday.