The Mennonite Educational Institute senior boys volleyball team had to fight harder than usual for their spot on the provincial podium, but they managed to claw their way to a bronze medal in Kelowna on the weekend.
The Eagles, who held the No. 1 ranking in the AA tier before falling to Langley Fundamental in the Fraser Valley final, went 1-2 during round-robin power-pool action on Thursday.
That left them seeded third heading into the playoffs, where they opened with straight-sets wins over Sa-Hali of Kamloops and Nanaimo District to earn a rematch with Langley Fundamental in the semis.
MEI ended up falling in four sets (25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 34-32), but rebounded to beat Okanagan Mission (25-22, 19-25, 25-13, 25-21) for the bronze.
Langley Fundamental went on to beat Langley Christian in an all-Langley final.
The Eagles have now climbed the podium at 12 straight AA provincial tourneys, with eight gold medals, one silver and three bronzes in that span.
MEI head coach Jordan Geransky expressed pride in his team's performance at provincials, particularly in light of the fact they've had four players in and out of the lineup with ankle injuries over the past two weeks.
Senior outside hitter Ben Lieuwen, who missed the Fraser Valley final with a dislocated ankle, made a heroic return at the B.C.'s and nearly carried his team all the way back in the epic semifinal vs. Langley Fundamental.
"He was on crutches a week and a half ago," Geransky marvelled. "In the semis, he had 110 swings, nearly double his season high. Absolutely incredible, how he fought through it."
Lieuwen was named a first team provincial all-star, while Jordan Loewen was a second-teamer and Jordan Koslowsky was an honourable mention.
"We just ran out of steam late," Geransky summarized. "It's tough not to be proud, given the adversity we had to face at the very end. We did an awesome job considering the circumstances."