The Vernon Christian senior boys high school volleyball team accomplished something never done before in the history of the Best of the West volleyball tournament in Kelowna.
The Royals became the only single ‘A’ team to win the title.
“We opened a lot of eyes this weekend with our play,” Royals co-coach Chris Bannick said. “The boys play better with more intensity as the stakes get higher. Even when we are down in a set, they find a way to work hard to eventually take the victory. I am extremely proud of the way they play, and there is no one player an opponent can key on and try to shut down as they all are great players that contribute from all positions on the court. We are a tight family that plays with integrity, and do what it takes to win for each other and for the love of the game.”
The No. 1-ranked Royals were the only A school placed in the power pools Friday and played strong competition, but still managed to win their pool. The first match was against the No. 3-ranked AA George Elliot Coyotes of Lake Country and the Royals played a focused match and capitalized on Coyote mistakes to take it 25-17,25-21. Devin Hofsink led the charge with seven kills from the right side while Shaun Huizinga provided four digs from the libero position.
Next up, VCS played a back-and-forth match against Langley Christian Lightning. The No. 2-ranked AA Fraser Valley squad prevailed 25-21, 22-25, and 15-11. The Royals rebounded in their toughest match of the day as they defeated the No.1-ranked team in AA, MEI Eagles of Clearbrook, 26-24, 25-27, 15-10. Even though they were down 13-3 early, the Royals found a way to claw back into the match and take the crucial first set, rallying behind an eight-point service run from Hofsink. Middle position player Liam Remple led statistically with 10 kills and three solo blocks. Braeden McAmmond had four kills and a solo block at middle, while Levi VanderDeen had seven kills from the power position.
The Royals were tied with the Eagles due to the same record at the end of pool play but came first due to a better head-to-head record.
VCS cranked up their game in the playoffs, never to lose another set. In the round of 16, the squad dispatched city rival Seaton Sonics 25-17, 25-20, led by team captain and outside power Ben Molitwenik. His match results were 11 kills and two service aces. McAmmond had three kills, an ace, and a solo block.
In Saturday’s quarter-final action, VCS defeated Calgary Christian 25-18,25-18. Remple led the team with three service aces while setter Jacob Defeo had 19 assists. The semi-finals against the #2 AAA ranked Kelowna Owls was played in front of the home team crowd. The Royals were unfazed by the noise and rose to the occasion with a determined effort to take the match 25-20, 25-17. Defeo’s tough serving proved no match for KSS as he led all players with five aces to go along with 15 assists. Josh Hall had five kills at middle and two solo blocks.
The finals was a rematch with the Eagles and this time, the Royals used strong aggressive serving and solid blocking to round out their game with a 25-20, 25-21 championship win. Again, Defeo was solid from the service line with three aces and led a balanced offence with 31 assists. Hofsink and Molitwenik had 10 kills apiece, while Remple had four attacking points to go along with two defensive blocks. VanderDeen had five kills while Hall chipped in with four attacks and two solo blocks. Huizinga made solid serve receive passes to add to his four digs in the match.
Tournament all-star selections went to Molitwenik, Remple and Defeo.
“We served notice that we are one of the best teams in BC,” VCS head coach Dwayne Remple said. “We continue to take on the province’s top teams and beat them, no matter their ranking. The boys played great volleyball this weekend. Our big block and aggressive serving continues to put on pressure which tends to frustrate our opponents. There is great team chemistry and they cheer each other on as each person has success. They continue to mature in their approach to prepare for each big match. Very proud of these boys!”
The Royals compete next weekend at the Christian Schools Championship, hosted by Abbotsford Christian School Friday, with the finals concluding Saturday evening.