First ace. First block. First dig. First kill. The first time you do anything in volleyball it is special and memorable.
This weekend the three Valley secondary schools are attempting something for this first time – co-hosting the AA and AAA 2012 Senior Boys Island Championships.
The top eight AA and the top AAA teams will be in town this Friday and Saturday to compete for a chance to battle for their respective Provincial Championships in Kelowna, Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.
The annual Island Championships are usually hosted separately each November. However the opportunity arose when Highland was awarded the AA championships last November and G.P. Vanier was asked to host the AAA championships following a scheduling conflict at Dover Bay Secondary in Naniamo.
“I looked at the situation and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to co-host and showcase boys volleyball within the Valley and the Island as a whole,” said tournament director Brian McAskill. “Thankfully, both Highland and Mark Isfeld jumped on board and also saw it as a unique opportunity to make a big event for the Valley, the fans, the parents, the coaches and most importantly the student-athletes. High praise goes to Ann Lewis and the Highland parent group as well as Donna Baydock and Isfeld athletic director Colin Cunningham.”
This year’s event includes both GP Vanier (AAA) and Highland (AA) in their respective draws as well as traditional Island powerhouses Oak Bay (#3 AAA in B.C.), Pacific Christian (#4 AA in B.C.) and Gulf Islands (#8 in AA in B.C.).
“The AAA side of things is a flat out dogfight,” said McAskill. “Oak Bay will definitely grab one of the AAA berths and six of the remaining teams will battle for three remaining berths. It is the tightest Islands group of teams I have seen in 16 years of high school coaching. This season has been unbelievable, everyone has beaten everyone,” said a cautious McAskill.
The AA draw sees Pacific Christian and Gulf Islands as heavy favourites to take two of the three berths with the remaining five teams (including Highland ) in yet another dogfight for the third and final remaining berth.
The local teams are both young but with some experience. “Highland is young but they have a number of players who were starters on last season’s team that won the AA Islands and finished sixth at last year’s B.C.s. They are definitely in the mix for a berth again this year if they can pass well and their setting is consistent enough to put their hitters in a good spot,” theorized McAskill (last year’s Highland coach).
Highland is led by Tristan McLean who has played various roles for the team throughout the season. Their offence is paced by Chris Dodd and Trenton Cameron on the outside. Setter Jarod Collin quarterbacks the offence relying on coaches Pieter de la Ray and Mike Fulmore for instruction from the sideline. Highland enters the AA Islands as North #4 but are making strdies towards knocking off the top teams.
Across town, the Vanier Towhees put a squad of Grade 10/11s with some Grade 12 leadership sprinkled in the starting lineup. The Towhees are led by Grade 10 standout Braedon Brouwer who leads the team in kills and points. “He could be a special player, he could follow in his brother (Rylan) and Brad Gunter’s footsteps, who are both at the CIS level this season. But he has to work, and work hard,” said his coach McAskill.
Vanier is further powered by twins Sam and Alex Kussauer, Sam on the left side and Alex running the offence as the setter. “Both have improved immensely throughout the season but it is my hope that their best is yet to come this upcoming weekend, “ said McAskill.
The Vanier roster is filled out by newcomers to the sport Aaron Slobodin, Isaiah Mayo and Cole Penney. All student-athletes have improved in leaps and bounds as the season has progressed. Their improvement and the continued development of Bryan Johnson in the libero position has produced a young squad looking for upsets and consistent play at Islands and to book a trip to Kelowna in two weeks.
Championship play begins on Friday at noon at both Highland and Vanier. The Towhees are in action at noon (vs. Oak Bay), 3:45 (vs. Dover Bay) and 5 (vs. Claremont). Across town the Raiders are in action at 1:15 (vs. Lambrick Park), 2:30 (vs. Gulf Islands) and 5 (vs. Parklands).
Championship playoffs will take place at Mark Isfeld with both the AA and AAA draws showcasing their skills on the Isfeld Ice courts. Semifinals take place at 12:45 and 2:30 with both the AA and AAA bronze matches at 5:30 followed by the AA and AAA gold matches at 7:15.
Entry to Championship Saturday will be by donation in support of the Valley volleyball programs. If you have any questions or if any Valley businesses would like to lend their support they are asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Come on out and enjoy some of the cheapest live sports in the Valley. And best of all…no chance of a lockout!” McAskill said.
– Vanier Towhees