Given the storied history of the boys volleyball program at Mennonite Educational Institute, you almost wonder if there’s any history left to be made.
This year’s edition of the Eagles junior boys squad, though, managed to stake out some uncharted territory on Saturday when they beat the Earl Marriott Mariners in the provincial championship game at MEI Middle. It marked the first time MEI has won back-to-back B.C. titles at the junior boys level – they also won it all in 2012.
“It feels awesome,” enthused Kaden Gamache, who plays right side and setter for the Eagles and was named MVP of the provincial tourney.
“This is a goal we set out at the beginning of the season – we know MEI’s never really done this before, and we were pushing to do it. We had a ton of pressure on ourselves, but we earned it. We worked really hard all season.”
The host squad came in as the top seed, but ran into some adversity in the quarter-finals against Clarence Fulton of Vernon. Fulton was the No. 2-ranked team in the province, but had suffered upset losses during pool play which caused them to clash with MEI earlier in the playoff draw than might have been expected.
The Eagles survived in a three-set thriller, then disposed of Langley Fundamental in the semis, setting up a date with Marriott in the final. The South Surrey squad had carved out a Cinderella narrative, vastly outperforming their No. 12 ranking en route to the title game.
MEI, though, won in straight sets before an enthusiastic home crowd.
Middle Carson Bargen (first team) and setter/right side Brendan Loewen (second team) earned all-star nods, while Steven Pankratz was named top libero.
Head coach Brad Knodel has been involved with the Eagles junior boys for 10 seasons now, helping guide the team to four B.C. titles during that span. He said this year’s edition of the squad might be the deepest and most versatile he’s worked with – in the final, all 11 players got into the game.
“And that wasn’t charity – I needed all 11 guys,” Knodel said. “Most guys could play two or three positions, which is pretty rare.
“To win back-to-back says something about the program . . . we’ve had some consistency.”