It’s the biggest tournament to hit Chemainus Secondary School in any sport other than wrestling in a long time.
The Island senior A girls volleyball playdowns feature 12 teams, including the host Chemainus Cougars, vying not only for the title but the two berths plus a wild card possibility into the provincial playdowns.
Duncan Christian School has been a frequent host of this event in the past, but the reins are being turned over to Chemainus and new athletic director Kyle Peruniak. It’s a huge undertaking to stage a tournament of this magnitude but Chemainus is ready to pull it off and the participating players on all teams can’t wait for the action to get going Friday.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a steep learning curve, lots of moving parts, however, it’s really been a collaborative project,” noted Peruniak. “Tom Veenstra from DCS and both Jennie (Hittinger) and Kelsey (Bell) at Chemainus have been amazing supports and a wealth of knowledge. Tom set up the tournament schedule and dealt with the organization of referees early on which is probably the most complicated part so I have a lot to thank him for.
“I wanted to hold the tournament as a big send-off to our senior girls and Jennie, who’s most likely stepping away from coaching after a tremendous amount of time and energy she has put in since coming to Chemainus Secondary. Girls volleyball has a strong following due to all this hard work which is awesome.”
Teams are divided into three pools of four for Friday’s preliminary action, leading into the playoff round Saturday where the stakes are much higher and the level of play reaches a corresponding intensity.
For the host Cougars, with many of the girls in their final year as seniors, it’s a chance to put it all on the line in front of the home crowd.
“We are so excited,” said Julia Peterson, a mainstay on the team going back as far as her Grade 10 year.
“We’ve been practicing with a higher net. When we go to a lower net, it’s way easier to spike.”
That’s only a small part of the intense preparations the girls have been undertaking to make the best possible showing.
“We don’t have really strong blockers so we work on our passing,” Peterson added.
She is thrilled about the tournament being held in the Chemainus gym.
“I think it’ll be a lot more comfortable and all our friends are going to be here to support us,” Peterson indicated.
“I like our gym. It feels like home.”
“I think it’ll probably make quite a bit of difference because we have our school support us and we have more motivation to push harder,” added teammate Jaymi Wallace.
Working together will be critical for success, she reasoned.
“We want to reach our top intensity and try to build onto that and push harder, if we can.”
Natalie Craig has also been looking forward to this moment for the Cougars to shine.
“I think we’ve improved a major amount since the beginning of last year,” she indicated. “I think every single person has grown.
“I really think our attitude when we’re all really positive, we play a lot better as a team. If our attitude is positive we can conquer a lot as a team.”
Playing in front of a large hometown crowd will be an experience in itself.
“We have a lot of kids in our school who are really awesome in supporting us,” Craig praised.
“At the same time, I think we’re going to be a little nervous. We haven’t played in front of a lot of our student body.”
It all gets going for Chemainus at 10:45 a.m. Friday against Lake Cowichan. See more on the team on Page 14 of today’s Courier.
The only other event to pack fans into the Chemainus gym on a regular basis, The Cougar Invitational Wrestling Tournament, is only a few short weeks away and marks its 13th anniversary this year on Dec. 9.