Some spectacular volleyball was played over two days during the Island Senior A Girls Championships at Chemainus Secondary School.
Unfortunately, the host Chemainus Cougars had a rough first day, but eventually rallied to finish fifth in the 11-team event.
No. 1 Nanaimo Christian School maintained its top seeding and placed first by beating the No. 2 Lake Cowichan Lakers 25-17, 25-8 in the championship match Saturday night. Both teams advance to the provincial playoffs.
Chemainus went in as the No. 3 seed and Duncan Christian School No. 4, but both slipped two spots to No. 5 and 6, respectively. Moving into higher placings were Campbell River Christian at No. 3 and Aspengrove of Lantzville at No. 4.
Rounding out the standings were: Victor Brodeur of Victoria at No. 7, Port Hardy No. 8, St. Andrew’s No. 9, Brookes of Shawnigan Lake No. 10 and Ucluelet No. 11. North Island was forced to drop out at the last minute, leaving the tournament short of three full pools of four for round robin play.
It was the first time for Chemainus taking on a tournament of this magnitude in many years and there were numerous compliments for the work of athletic director Kyle Peruniak and the abundant volunteers.
“It was a really great experience having all these schools converge on our quiet little town,” noted Peruniak. “As a new AD and resident it was also an awesome means of connecting with the different schools, ADs and coaches. The tournament was a celebration of all the hard work Jennie (Hittinger) and Kelsey (Bell) have done with our girls program, especially with so many of our girls being in their final year of high school and winning their last game against a close rival – DCS.
“Definitely a ton of work, which couldn’t have happened without the critical help from our student body. I had students from Grades 8-12 helping out with the scorekeeping and lines refereeing. All in all, they did an amazing job and I’m very proud of them.”
Chemainus went winless Friday in a ‘power pool’ with all the other top four seeds. The Cougars were beaten 9-25, 11-25 by eventual champion Nanaimo Christian, 16-25, 23-25 by Lake Cowichan and 18-25, 17-25 by Duncan Christian.
“It was a rough go, the first day,” conceded Chemainus player Natalie Craig. “We didn’t play really bad, although I don’t think we were playing our best.”
The Cougars still qualified for the quarterfinals based on seedings and faced Aspengrove Saturday morning, showing flashes of brilliance but losing 24-26, 25-15, 9-15.
Chemainus finally got on the winning track in its final two matches of the tournament over Brodeur 25-18, 21-25, 15-11 and avenged the earlier loss against arch-rival Duncan Christian by taking a 25-14, 25-17 decision.
While Chemainus hoped for better, the team finished about where expected with so many high-calibre teams in the mix.
“I think we battled hard against those teams that are going to provincials,” said Cougars’ coach Kelsey Bell.
“Aspengrove, I think we could have taken them. That was the one I thought was the most important game for us to win.”
Chemainus struggled in the first set and was on the verge of losing when Natalie Craig stepped up to serve and turned a 15-24 deficit into a 24-24 tie with nine straight points.
Just as quickly as that happened, Aspengrove gained a point back and then won it on a strange play. The whistle blowing on the other court distracted the Chemainus players, but an Aspengrove player also appeared to scoop and double-hit the ball anyway.
However, the point was still awarded to Aspengrove when the Cougars thought the play had been stopped.
Chemainus came back like gangbusters to easily take the second set, but then couldn’t get anything going in the third and deciding set.
“Going into that third, it seemed they had checked out,” noted Bell. “It was kind of odd.
“If we won that first set, I thought we would have seen a different game.”
“I think we all wanted to win that game so bad,” added Craig.
“We were having kind of bad luck. I thought we were passing really good, but we were getting a little frazzled.
“The next two games were really, really good. I think we played the best game we’ve ever played against DCS. DCS has always been the one team last year we really struggled with beating.”
That was mainly because of the presence of Danielle Groenendijk of Chemainus and she’s since moved on to the college ranks with Vancouver Island University as a prominent player.
Chemainus did not have Hannah Tuplin available on the second day and was lacking the energy she would have provided in the Aspengrove game. But the team pulled together to revitalize itself during a tough test with much-improved Brodeur and DCS.
“We didn’t have the results we necessarily wanted,” summed up Bell. “I’m still really proud of the girls and the way they played.
“We knew we could be a third-place team. We also knew there were some teams that were really good.”
Nanaimo Christian’s Asa Liu was the tournament MVP. Team all-stars included: Jaymi Wallace of Chemainus, Kassandra Richardson (Nanaimo Christian), Kendall Bergstrom and Kali Mullin (Lake Cowichan), Kianna Brearley (Campbell River Christian), Jessica Hutchinson (Aspengrove), Jaymie Brandsma (Duncan Christian), Kestrel Guyon (Brodeur), Mady Harris (Port Hardy), Bridget Mateyko (St. Andrew’s), Kim English (Brookes) and Ainsley Drake (Ucluelet).