Maria Hansen still remembers the heart-pounding, sweat-inducing excitement of the 2004 B.C. High School Girls AA volleyball championships.
Hansen and her Kalamalka Lakers were hosting the provincials on their home court in Coldstream. The Lakers were the defending provincial champs and were looking to hang a second straight PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONS banner on the school’s gym wall. They took on Vancouver’s St. Patrick’s Academy in the final before a packed house.
St. Pat’s won the gold in the fifth and deciding set, 15-13.
“That was an amazing match,” said Hansen, in her 26th year of coaching, and who has guided the Lakers to two of the school’s three provincial titles and three provincial silver medals. She’ll get a chance to get her team to a seventh final Nov. 28-30 when the Lakers host the B.C. AA championships.
The event will be a 20-team affair, compared to 16 back in 2004. Kal will get an automatic berth into the field as tournament hosts. The four additional teams require additional courts.
“We will play all of our pool games here (Kal) and there will be games at Fulton and two courts at Vernon Secondary,” said Hansen, joined on the bench by co-coach John Neilson.
“The Okanagan gets two berths. So if we finish first or second at the Valleys, the third-place team qualifies.”
The Lakers, currently ranked 10th in the AA provincial standings, are expected to battle Valley hosts George Elliot Coyotes, currently ranked third in B.C., and who beat Kal in the final of the recent Fulton Maroons tournament.
Wanting to earn a berth to the provincials rather than settling for the host designation, Hansen will rely on the leadership of her captains, Jessica Grages and Olivia Tymkiw, and the veteran savvy of her Grade 12s – Grages, Shaylee Hunter, Taylor Francks, Chanelle Wilson and Anna Rinn – to propel them into the B.C. tournament.
“With these girls, when they win, they win together. When they lose, they lose together. It’s a collective effort either way,” said Hansen, whose words were backed up by Grages, excited to end her high school career with a chance to play in the provincials at home.
“Everyone gets along really well,” said Grages, who plays power hitter. “We work really well together. Everyone’s on the same page. There’s no negativity. No drama. This is a fun group of people doing something together.
“We’re out here to play for fun, to win and try our hardest.”
Tymkiw, whose skill set as a middle player is one of the things Hansen admires about her co-captain, feels it will be crucial for Kal to get off to a good start on the opening day of the B.C. tourney.
“It’s very important. How we do in the pool play sets us up for the crossover and potential matchups against (No. 1 from Surrey) Pacific Academy and (No. 5 from Clearbrook) MEI,” said Tymkiw, who praised the play of libero Shaylee Hunter and Francks and Sales-Parno for helping kickstart the Lakers’ offence.
“Shaylee covers so much ground in the back court, she’ll go for any ball, and Taylor and Delaney do a great job of spreading the ball around to the hitters.”
Joining Tymkiw and Sales-Parno as Grade 11 players on the Lakers are Tatum Secretan, Kate Gareau, Hailey Rangen and Tehya Laviolette, and Grade 10 Sophie Dennis rounds out the roster.
The bronze- and gold-medal matches will be held at Kal Secondary Saturday, Nov. 30.