Eagles aim to extend volleyball dynasty

The Mennonite Educational Institute boys volleyball team is where it always seems to be – in position to contend for a B.C. title.

MEI Eagles libero Angelo Alvarado works on his passing during a recent practice.

Back in August, Jeremy Lieuwen was asked how he thought his Mennonite Educational Institute senior boys volleyball team would fare in the fall.

Lieuwen, at the time, downplayed the Eagles’ chances, noting that he was one of a handful of seniors on an otherwise-youthful roster.

Fast forward three months, and the MEI boys are where they always seem to be – in position to contend for a B.C. title. They’ve been ranked anywhere between first and fifth in the provincial AA poll – they moved up from fifth to second in Wednesday’s latest rankings – as they work to extend a one of the more remarkable active dynasties in B.C. high school sports. The Eagles have medaled at AA provincials each of the past nine years, winning seven golds and two bronzes during that span.

“It was definitely a surprise, even to myself,” admitted Lieuwen, the Eagles’ captain, speaking of his team’s terrific start to the season. “Coming into this year, I hadn’t really seen the guys below me play a lot. I remembered them from when they were younger, and they weren’t that good.

“A lot of people said it would be a weaker year for us, but it’s been contrary to that. The young guys have been stepping up, improving a lot. Even the games we’ve lost, we’ve been right there. We have a great shot at winning again this year, and it’s really exciting to see.”

Last year’s Eagles team sent stars like setter Tyler Koslowsky (Trinity Western) and middle Connor Nickel (Columbia Bible College) on to the post-secondary ranks, but MEI’s thriving middle school and junior programs have delivered another crop of top athletes to the senior squad.

Returnees Lieuwen (left side), Zach Funk (right side) and Angelo Alvarado (libero) have been joined by four new faces in the starting lineup. Jordan Schmidt and Caleb Penner are the duo in the middle, and Grade 11 Caleb Conrad runs the offence from the setter spot. Ben Lieuwen, Jeremy’s younger brother, is a Grade 10 phenom who starts at the other left side spot.

The Eagles have proved their mettle by making it to the quarter-finals at a trio of elite tournaments, and during league play last month, they came within a whisker of beating current AA No. 1 Langley Christian, falling 15-12 in the fifth set.

Eagles coach Jeff Stel attributed the program’s staying power to MEI’s deep roster of volleyball coaches at the younger age groups.

“Throughout the school, we have awesome coaches who instill the love of the sport in the kids,” Stel noted. “The skill development of the kids is getting better and better every year.”

Stel said the 2011-12 edition of the Eagles have great chemistry both on the court and off.

“We just have a bunch of really good guys who want to work hard and desire to achieve – not only on the court, but also in school,” he said. “Faith-wise, too, they want to see our team dynamic be strong, not just our team be strong. That’s one of the big things I love about these guys, and as a coach at a Christian school, that’s obviously something you want to see.”

Just Posted

Abbotsford man gets 9 months for pilfering $36,000 from Mission gun shop

Tyson Gamberg worked as shipper at High Calibre Services Corp.

Company’s ‘toxic’ stench at Abbotsford school prompts district’s appeal to Ministry of Education for help

Enforcement centered on voluntary compliance has “no teeth” while kids become sick

Threats to the Fraser River at a ‘new zenith,’ says river conservationist

The ‘Heart of the Fraser’ should be deemed ecologically significant according to ORC statement

Ready, set, Glow! Christmas festival opens in Abbotsford

Event at Tradex features a million lights, live entertainment and more

Fraser Valley Regional District administration/government costs set to rise by 18%

Mosquito control and fire dispatch costs also set for increase

VIDEO: Federal Liberals’ throne speech welcomes opposition’s ideas

Trudeau will need NDP or Bloc support to pass legislation and survive confidence votes

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Chilliwack mom gives back to neonatal unit with Christmas stocking drive

Ashley Durance is paying it forward to other families and their babies following daughter’s NICU stay

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Illicit drug deaths down, but B.C. coroner says thousands still overdose

Chief coroner Life Lapointe says province’s drug supply remains unpredictable

One of B.C’s last surviving strip clubs baring all again for Christmas charity

25th annual event is Sunday and raises money for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.

Most Read