The Highland Raiders senior boys volleyball team have beaten the odds yet again. For the second year running they have taken the Island championship and are off to Kelowna for their third consecutive provincials.
The nucleus of this group for three years now has been Angus Ireland, Noah Lewis and Stuart Maclean. Starting in Grade 10 this trio has been the backbone of these teams. In Grade 10 they led the 11s and 12s. Last year they had a very strong team and just missed the mark in the crossover game at provincials, and this year they are leading a group of Grade 10s and one Grade 9 to the B.C.s.
This team is unique. When they are on the court playing, spectators from other schools comment on their camaraderie and team spirit. While working hard at all times, these boys obviously enjoy each other immensely. Their respect and admiration for one another is obvious.
While many teams do bonding activities to have players gel, this team has been doing it for years. Not only are there two sets of brothers on the team, the friendships go back a long way. Many of the boys have been in school together and played sports together since kindergarten.
They have not only played volleyball but also basketball, soccer, hockey and other activities together. They choose to be together in their free time and the older boys are always there coaching and supporting the younger guys. Now that this junior/senior team plays together as one team, there is a very noticeable bond both on and off the court.
Add to this special mix one of the most knowledgeable and respected volleyball coaches in the province and things just start working. Brian McAskill from Vanier decided to coach at Highland when he did not have enough seniors come out this year. McAskill has developed the junior players, and in the next couple of years they will be a force in the province.
On day one at Islands, the Raiders beat B.C. Honourable Mention Pacific Christian on their home court and the following day took No. 8 provincially ranked Lambrick Park in two straight sets. After pool play, the Raiders came up against Pacific Christian again in the final.
Highland took the first set, but lost a shaky second set 25-19. This was only the second set they dropped in the entire tournament. After that, it was all Highland. The Vanier girls arrived after their own Island win just in time to counter the home support of the Pacific Christian crowd. The support was just what the boys needed to dominate the next two sets and claim the Island championship.
The tournament concluded with Ireland and Maclean earning all-star awards, Grade 10 Nick Tancon receiving honourable mention and Noah Lewis named tournament MVP.
In two short months the Raiders have accomplished an amazing feat – they have gone from not having a team, to moving nine juniors to play senior level, getting a coach from Vanier, sweeping Islands and now they are ranked No. 8 in the province going to Provincials this week (Nov. 29 to Dec. 3) in Kelowna.
– Highland Raiders volleyball