The Vancouver Island-Central Coast and Cariboo-North East squads treated fans to a thriller on Friday morning as the BC Summer Games girls volleyball competition opened.
Playing at the Envision Athletic Centre on the University of the Fraser Valley’s Abbotsford campus, Vancouver Island-Central Coast (Zone 6) prevailed in two straight sets (27-25, 25-21) in a match that featured lengthy rallies and wild momentum swings throughout.
“It’s going to be a hard tournament the whole way, but we showed great resilience,” Zone 6 head coach Jordan Church analyzed. “We needed a bit of grittiness to pull out the win, which was good.”
The BC Games volleyball format is unique – teams don’t use a libero (defensive specialist), and they’re required to use completely different starting lineups in the first and second sets (with subs allowed after 15 points) so that every player gets a chance to play.
Vancouver Island-Central Coast got off to a great start in the first set, racing out to a 9-5 lead, but Cariboo (Zone 8) erased the deficit in short order and went up 11-10 thanks to some great play at the net from their middles. Zone 8 had some hiccups in their passing game which allowed Zone 6 to surge ahead by scores of 19-15 an 24-21, but the Cariboo squad clawed their way back to level the match 24-24. Vancouver Island registered three of the next four points, though, to close out the set 27-25.
In the second set, Cariboo went up 13-7 early, but Vancouver Island rallied to go up 15-14 behind some dynamic swings from left side Sophia Johnson. The two teams traded the lead and were tied 21-21, but the Islanders scored the last four points to seal their first win of the tourney.
Afterward, Johnson said that on-court communication was the key to her team’s second-set rally.
“We weren’t communicating as well (early on), but when we get hyped up, we play way better,” said the 15-year-old Campbell River product.
“It’s very exciting (to win the first match). It makes me feel better about the next couple days. I’m ready for this.”
Church said his team is approaching the BC Games with “high expectations.”
“We’re a really strong team, an experienced team, with club players who have played at a really high level,” he noted. “So we’re coming in with the idea that we should be medaling here. But it’s a strong tournament and anything can happen. We’re just taking it one game at a time – if we play well, the results will take care of themselves.”
In other early action on Friday, Thompson-Okanagan defeated North West (25-13, 25-10), the Fraser Valley beat the Kootenays (25-22, 25-15), and Fraser River knocked off Vancouver-Coastal (25-19, 26-24).
by Dan Kinvig