The Highland Raiders posted a solid sixth place finish at the 16-team B.C. AA boys high school volleyball championships in Kelowna last week (Dec. 1-3).
The Island champions were seeded #8, placing them in the power pool with #5 Abbotsford Christian, #6 George Elliott (Winfield) and #7 Clarence Fulton (Vernon). Highland had a tough start, facing hometown George Elliott in front of their own student body. Although they lost 21-25, 21-25, Highland head coach Brian McAskill was very pleased with the team’s start. “The first day is all about playing good volleyball and finding a rhythm that will lead to success once the playoffs begin on Thursday. I was pleased with our mental focus and intensity during the first match. We lost because we did not execute at a high level consistently enough. This was our focus the rest of the day.”
The second match brought Abbotsford Christian to the court along with their two 6’7″ middles. Highland middles Stuart MacLean (12) and Nick Tancon (10) rose above expectations and dominated the net with numerous stuff blocks and kills. The Comox boys also dominated from the service line as both Chris Dodd (10) and Jared Collin (9) repeatedly served up aces and tough serves. In the end, Highland prevailed 25-23, 25 -23.
Their third match saw Highland and Clarence Fulton battling for second in the pool. In a lacklustre match to which neither team brought their mental intensity, captain Noah Lewis and setter Angus Ireland put the team on their back and led them to a three-set victory 25-23, 20-25, 15-12. The win gave Highland the sixth seed heading into the playoffs.
“Angus was incredible, he made up for a lot of passing mistakes and put all of our attackers in great positions to end rallies. Throughout the week he was one of the best setters at the tournament in all three tiers A/AA/AAA. Both Angus and Noah provide such a calming leadership influence on the court coupled with their high skill level… they are a major reason this team was so successful,” theorized McAskill.
An early morning first round playoff match put the Raiders up against #11 seed Mt. Sentinel (South Slocan). The Comox boys were out of bed early and thoroughly dominated the Kootenay boys 25-15, 25-15, 25-7 to move onto the quarter-finals and the top eight in BC.
“When people hear that one volleyball team dominated another one they tend to think they beat them at the net attacking and blocking but with this team and its youth and lack of size at some points; we dominate teams by passing the ball well, playing great, unrelenting defence and serving the ball tough to put our opponent in trouble. The Mt. Sentinel match was a classic example of that,” said McAskill.
Both Trenton Cameron (10) and Tristan MacLean (10) did an admirable job passing and playing defence throughout the match and were aided by some key defensive plays by libero Alec Molander (10).
Highland`s quarter-final draw brought them a favourable matchup with #3 College Heights (Prince George) Thursday evening in front a large crowd at the Universtiy of British Columbia Okanagan. Highland`s ability to serve tough and force a big middle attack with Tancon and Stu MacLean were a good match-up for the Prince George team.
Although match-ups can be favorable, they quickly become unfavourable if a team lacks execution. “We were so close. At times we rolled and executed almost at a perfect level. However, we played young at times, which we are. But in the end we made the second best team in the province play their best defensive match of their season to beat us. I don`t think we lost that match, I think College Heights won it. For a team that starts four Grade 10s at the senior level, that is something to be proud of,” McAskill stated.
A uniform mishap in the first set provided Thomas De La Ray (12) with some playing time and he held the fort admirably. A 21-25, 25-21, 23-25, 17-25 defeat ended the dream of playing for a provincial medal. However, the Comox crew showed their heart and determination by following up with a 25-20, 28-26 win over Fulton to place them in the fifth-place match. A last day defeat at the hands of Abbotsford Christian 19-15, 20-25, despite some strong serving from Sam Lewis (10), placed the Raiders sixth in the province.
“When you consider that we had eight Grade 10s, four of which started at the senior level. I would consider an Island championship and sixth in the province to be a memorable accomplishment and an amazing season,” said a proud McAskill.
Noah Lewis (12) was named to the first all-star team and Angus Ireland (12) was an Honourable Mention. Both middles Stuart MacLean (12) and Nick Tancon (10) received consideration by the all-star committee as well.
“Noah follows in the footsteps of Rylan Brouwer and Brad Gunter from Vanier as a first-team all-star at B.C.s. Both Rylan (VIU) and Brad (TRU) have gone on to play volleyball at the post-secondary level and similar to Noah they played both volleyball and basketball successfully at the high school level. Whether it is hoops or volleyball, I know Noah will be successful past high school due to his parenting, his desire and his willingness to be a multi-sport athlete,” said McAskill. The coach also pointed to Nick Tancon (10) and Jared Collin (9) as two upcoming athletes who can follow in the footsteps of these multi-sport athletes.
Noah Lewis, Angus Ireland and Stuart MacLean are fielding offers from several colleges to play at the post-secondary level. As club season looms at the beginning of February they will have many coaches watching them and hoping they will wear their college’s uniform next season.
The 2011 Highland Raiders finish the season 13-6 in the regular season and 14-3 in the playoffs. Club volleyball begins in the new year, any players of any age can contact McAskill for more information at G.P. Vanier at 250-338-9262.
SIDE OUTS At the girls B.C. championships last week, the Vanier Towhees placed 16th at the AAAA tourney, the Isfeld Ice were 11th at the AAA event with Shimen Fayad a second-team all-star and the Highland Raiders were 11th at the AA provincials …
– Highland Raiders volleyball