Eagles soar past Owls, win B.C. junior boys volleyball crown

MEI's Keaton Boughen battles at the net with a Kelowna Owls opponent during the B.C. junior boys volleyball championship game on Saturday. The host Eagles prevailed in three straight sets.
— image credit: John Morrow

The prevailing school of thought around the Mennonite Educational Institute volleyball program is that this year's junior boys team might be the most talented group ever to wear the blue and white of the Eagles.

That's some awfully high praise. The MEI boys volleyball dynasty has, after all, produced eight senior AA provincial titles in the past 10 years while sending a parade of blue-chippers on to the university and college ranks.

But the current crop of Grade 9-10 athletes actually managed to exceed the hype on the weekend, mowing down the competition at the B.C. junior championships.

The host Eagles didn't lose a single set all tournament, and capped things off with a 25-15, 25-20, 29-27 triumph over the Kelowna Owls in the gold medal game.

"I've been with the program for eight years, and this is the most talented team I've seen," marveled head coach Brad Knodel, whose squad lost just one set all season.

"Our libero makes our setter look good, and our setter makes our hitters look good. And that's the backbone of our team."

Indeed, while the Owls were the more physically imposing team, the Eagles showcased an incredibly precise, fundamentally sound brand of volleyball in the final. MEI's ball-handling, led by libero Bryson Marazzi, was superb, and star setter Jordan Koslowsky ran the offence with flair.

The Eagles ran into some adversity in the third set, as Kelowna reeled off a 10-1 run to take a 19-13 lead. But MEI dug deep, scoring seven of the next eight points en route to victory.

Koslowsky earned tourney MVP honours, while right side Keaton Boughen (first team) and left side Levi Block (second team) were all-stars.

MEI's march to the title was highlighted by a perfect 25-0 set against Oak Bay in the quarter-finals on Friday. It's a preposterously difficult feat, nearly impossible at this level of volleyball.

But after the Eagles opened the set by getting a side out, Koslowsky (pictured right) stepped up and served 24 straight points. It helps that his scorching, spinning jump serve is a nightmare for opponents to handle.

"It was surreal," Koslowsky said with a grin. "I wasn't really aware what was going on. Everybody was cheering, and I was like, 'Guys, we've still got to win another set.'

"We were scrappy and we weren't being selfish – we were playing for each other. It was really fun to be a part of."

• MEI's senior boys (AA) and senior girls (AAA) volleyball teams are at provincials this weekend in Kelowna and Vancouver, respectively.

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