South Surrey and Cloverdale schools will be well represented at provincial high school volleyball championships next month, after securing a handful of podium spots at Fraser Valleys.
Cloverdale’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers and Clayton Heights Night Riders won the senior girls quad-A and AAA Fraser Valley banners, respectively, while Earl Marriott saw its two senior sides finish on the podium as well, as the AAA senior boys and quad-A girls each finished third.
Fraser Heights Secondary rounded out the Surrey medal haul, as the north-end squad placed second at AAA senior boys championships, losing in the finals to Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators.
At the girls AAAA tournament, Tweedsmuir – the top-seeded team – rolled to victory with a quarter-final win over Walnut Grove and a semifinal win against South Delta.
In the championship game Friday night in South Delta, the Panthers edged Port Coquitlam’s Riverside Rapids 3-2 (25-21, 17-25, 25-11, 19-25, 15-10) to win the banner.
Earl Marriott won the bronze-medal game 3-0 over Terry Fox Secondary, and like their Cloverdale counterparts at Tweedsmuir, will be among the 16-team field at AAAA provincials, which are set to run Dec. 2-5 at Dover Bay Secondary in Nanaimo.
“We finished third, and we qualified for provincials, so I’ll take it,” said longtime EMS coach Mark Cassell.
After receiving a bye into quarter-finals, third-seeded Marriott began Valleys with a win over Seaquam, before losing 3-0 to Riverside in semifinals.
“We had a good start to the tournament, and I was pretty happy with how we finished – it was just a part in the middle where we struggled a bit,” Cassell said.
“Riverside took it to us a little bit, but that’s OK – those things happen sometimes. We call it a temporary setback.”
The Mariners also placed third at last year’s Fraser Valley tournament, which was won by Riverside; Tweedsmuir was second.
Earl Marriott has a long history of success at provincials, but Cassell says his team – which will likely enter the B.C. tournament seeded anywhere from seventh to ninth – relishes playing the role of underdog this time around.
“We’re the underdogs, you could call us that. The pressure will be on a lot of the other teams, I think,” he said.
Cassell’s squad played shorthanded for much of the season due to “a rash of injuries” but the team is finally healthy, he said.
“We have everybody now… I still think we can play better. I think we can improve on our spiking,” he said.
At the AAA level, Clayton Heights captured the banner after a come-from-behind win over their rivals from Fraser Heights.
The Night Riders beat their north Surrey rivals 3-2, despite trailing 1-0 and 2-1 earlier in the final.
The game mirrored a regular-season tilt between the two teams, Clayton Heights coach Gord Houchen said. In that contest, Clayton Heights also rallied for the win after trailing early.
“The girls have a lot of heart, and I think that developed right from that first game (against Fraser Heights),” Houchen explained.
“They knew that they could come back from being down 1-0 or 2-0. They showed that (resilience) al l year.”
The Night Riders have played in four of the last six Fraser Valley finals, winning twice.
Clayton Heights’ Liz Hicks was named tournament MVP, while teammates Veronica Plonis and Josi Delasi were named all-stars.
Clayton Heights will now move on to AAA provincials – as will Fraser Heights – which are set for Vernon, Dec. 3-5.
At the Fraser Valley AAA senior boys championships, Earl Marriott ended up third, after winning the bronze-medal match over Surrey Christian.
The Mariners – who had already qualified for provincials earlier in the week, by virtue of a win in quarter-finals – defeated Surrey Christian 3-1 Thursday night.
Tyson Smith was named to the tournament all-star team.
Marriott was bumped from gold-medal contention after a 3-0 loss to Fraser Heights in semifinals earlier last week.
EMS will now prepare for provincials, which run Dec. 3-5 at the Langley Events Centre.