Morning Star Staff
Vernon schools will be represented at every senior girls level at the provincial volleyball championships.
Keith Becker’s VSS Panthers won the Okanagan Valley AAA title in Kamloops, Maria Hansen’s Kalamalka Lakers claimed the AA crown in Penticton and Jason Reedyk’s Vernon Christian Royals earned the final berth at the A playoffs in Kelowna.
The Panthers outlasted the host NorKam Saints 25-16, 22-25, 25-18, 25-14 in Saturday’s finals. They move to the B.C. playdowns, Nov. 27-30 in Delta. Strong hitting and big blocking from middle hitters Karley Fugel and Ashtyn McKenzie were keys to the turnaround in set one which saw NorKam grab a 5-0 lead.
VSS had five returning seniors from their fourth-place team at the 2012 provincials in Vancouver and two of them – Avery Bridge and Searra Becker – earned first- and second-team all-star selections.
The Panthers, who are ranked No. 4 in B.C., stopped the Okanagan Mission Huskies of Kelowna 2-0 (25-8, 25-12), while NorKam downed the Seaton Sonics 2-0 (25-19, 25-10) in the semis.
“There is a calm that the Panthers have this season when they walk out on the court that takes this team to the next level of performance,” said coach Becker. “It has been a total team effort this year, from all the girls, and not without our share of injuries. The team has worked very hard on and off the court all season, and with some off-court training with team trainer Andrew Van derHam at Excel fitness, this has been a great way to help condition to be a lifetime volleyball athlete.”
Undefeated versus AAA schools, the Panthers got consistent setting from Hannah Nesbitt and Tanner Lorenson, and a 10-serve run from Mckenzie Kreeft to help seal a 25-16, 25-20 win over the Huskies to open pool play.
Match two saw the Panthers sweep the Sonics 25-17, 25-8 with solid passing from Te’a Reimer and Megan Reeves. VSS closed preliminary action by getting big hitting from Steph Mintz and Lorenson in a 25-12, 25-17 win over the Saints.
Kal used an epic comeback 3-2 win over the Sa-Hali Sabres of Kamloops for their Valley glory, taking the fifth and final set 17-15 after trailing 14-9.
“Jordan Korol went on an amazing serving run to tie the game with the team managing to win every play that was brought back over the net with inspired team play,” said Hansen. “Despite nursing a back injury, Korol was strong in the middle, especially with key blocks in the fourth set.”
Kal won the first set 25-20, then dropped the next two, 25-19, 25-19. They evened things with a 25-15 win off some great kill shots from captain Vicki Schley and power Julia Kemper.
Kal defeated the weary Westsyde Whundas 25-12, 25-10 in the semifinals.
The Lakers used stingy defence in the opening set and then Hannah Taylor and Maya Bandy (Grade 10) did a great job running the offence in the second set. Lauren Keryluke, who was magic both ways, provided some key hits to keep the Westsyde defense scrambling. Skylar Elliot, also a Grade 10 call-up, showed strong defensive play by registering some great passes and digs in the back row.
Added Hansen: “I am extremely proud of the team’s effort. They started to play significantly improved defence in their Fulton tournament win two weeks ago, and continued that this weekend. Their comeback in the final proves they believe in each other, their ability to win and the system we have.”
Emily Thorlakson dominated in the middle position with some monster hits as Kal iced Westsyde 25-5, 25-18 to open pool play. Kal grounded the host Princess Margaret Mustangs 25-20, 25-8 with some great serving and blocking from Grade 10 Alexa Tymkiw and great passing from libero Sam Bienias when the game was close in the first set. They finished by stuffing the George Elliot Coyotes of Winfield 25-12, 25-8.
Megan Squair controlled the Kal offence all weekend, making great set selections involving all hitters in the play.
Westsyde stopped Fulton 2-1 (25-18, 17-25, 16-14) in the quarterfinals. In pool play, Fulton iced Revelstoke Avalanche 2-1 (19-25, 25-13, 15-12) lost 2-0 (26-24, 25-20) to Sa-Hali and iced Valleyview Vikings of Kamloops 2-1 (17-25, 26-24, 15-8).
The Vernon Christian Royals made school history by becoming the school’s first girls team to make provincials (Nov. 28-30 in Duncan).
The Royals finished pool play Saturday morning with a 25-10, 25-7 loss to Immaculata Mustangs and then bounced back by outslugging the Similkameen Sparks of Keremeos 2-1 (17-25, 25-11, 15-11) in the quarterfinals.
The No. 1 ranked Kelowna Christian Knights dispatched the Royals 2-0 (25-7, 25-13) in the semis.
The A.L. Fortune Falcons of Enderby turned back the Royals 3-1 ( 21-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-17) in the bronze-medal match.
“Our girls played very well this weekend,” said Reedyk. “Both teams played a lot of volleyball on Saturday and fatigue set in for both teams. Strong hitting from Rebecca Vanderdeen, Vanessa Major, Jasmine Hofsink and Sam Hofsink propelled the Royals to their fourth-place finish.”