Gold standard: Eagles stage thrilling rally, win eighth B.C. title in 10 years

The Mennonite Educational Institute senior boys volleyball team capped a decade of dominance with a dramatic comeback victory.

Caleb Penner (12) of the MEI Eagles hammers the ball against the College Heights Cougars at the provincial AA championships in Kelowna on the weekend.

The Mennonite Educational Institute senior boys volleyball team capped a decade of dominance with a dramatic comeback victory in the AA provincial title game on Saturday evening in Kelowna.

The top-seeded Eagles were flying high heading into the gold medal match against the College Heights Cougars of Prince George, having dropped just one set all tournament long.

The Cougars stunned the favourites, though, winning the first two sets 25-21 and 25-23 to push the Eagles to the brink. College Heights had already engineered one upset, knocking off No. 2-ranked Langley Christian in the semifinals, and they were fast closing in on a second.

“It’s tough to go into a provincial final on such an emotional high, and then drop the first two sets,” Eagles head coach Jeff Stel noted. “The guys wanted it so bad, they got tense.

“I told them (after the second set) I believed they could still win, and I looked in their eyes and said, ‘You’re a good team.’ I said it about 10 times to each player. I think that just relaxed them, and then they went out and fired on all cylinders.”

With their backs against the wall, the Eagles rallied, winning the last three sets 25-16, 25-19, 15-9.

The epic rally extended MEI’s remarkable senior boys volleyball dynasty, as they won their eighth AA crown in the past 10 seasons. The two seasons where the Eagles didn’t didn’t climb to the top step of the podium, they won silver (2004) and bronze (2010).

“I was getting a little nervous,” Eagles left side Jeremy Lieuwen admitted with a chuckle afterward, reflecting on the period of crisis after the second set. “We had to start fighting, or we were going home.

“I think a lot of it was guys getting past their nerves and settling in. Our passing got better, our serving got better, and that really helped. With that came confidence, as we started seeing results.”

Lieuwen earned tournament MVP honours, and Stel said his dynamic play was instrumental in the comeback.

“It was probably his best game of the tournament,” the Eagles bench boss said. “He jumped a few inches higher and was able to hit the ball harder. He really had that drive to pull his team together – to be that physical and emotional leader to take the pressure off the younger guys.”

Ben Lieuwen, Jeremy’s younger brother, was named a first team all-star, while setter Caleb Konrad and middle Jordan Schmidt were second-teamers.


The senior boys’ triumph capped a terrific season for the MEI volleyball program as a whole.

The previous week, the Eagles junior boys took bronze at provincials, and the Grade 8 boys won the Fraser Valley championship – the first time a Valley tourney had ever been staged at that level. The Grade 8s beat Fraser Heights in straight sets in the final, and Daniel Siemens was named tournament MVP and Kaden Gamache was an all-star.

The MEI senior girls also qualified for the provincials after winning bronze at the Fraser Valleys. They finished seventh at the B.C. AAA tourney, held in Parksville.


Both Abbotsford Christian senior teams made it to the B.C.’s, and the Knights boys turned in a solid fifth-place finish.

The Abby Christian boys struggled during pool play, going 0-3, but came to life in the playoffs, winning three of four games. Their lone playoff loss came in the quarter-finals to eventual champ MEI. Trevor Dykshoorn was named a second-team all-star, while Dan Vaags and Wes Dewaal were honourable mentions.

The Knights girls finished 13th at AA provincials, held at Notre Dame Secondary in Vancouver. Jordyn Visser picked up a team all-star award.


The Yale Secondary senior boys finished 11th in the AAA draw in Kelowna. The Lions won all three matches during pool play, then beat Delta in their playoff opener. Yale saw its run on the championship side of the bracket come to an end in the round of 16, as they fell in three sets to Oak Bay, who would go on to win the gold medal.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers and COVID-19 contact tracers must stop, Chilliwack soccer club says

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Gurkirat Toor has been charged after allegedly pointing a gun at another driver on Oct. 23 in Abbotsford.
Man charged after gun pointed at another driver in Abbotsford

Gurkirat Toor, 21, previously charged with purple-fentanyl bust

The Abbotsford Teachers’ Union stated that local teachers worked without heat on Friday as secondary principals’ and vice-principals’ were at a work-related retreat in Whistler. (Google)
Abbotsford Teachers’ Union says teachers left in the cold on Friday

Abbotsford School District disagrees, saying all buildings were set to 21C on Pro-D Day

The Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation held its inaugural Grand Gala in November 2019 at Harrison Hot Springs Resort. This year’s event will be held online. (Submitted photo)
Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation holds virtual Grand Gala

Second annual event takes place online on Nov. 20, raising funds for local hospitals

Abbotsford author Katrina Wiggins has been shortlisted for the Page Turner Award eBook Award for her young adult novel, Blind the Eyes.
Abbotsford author shortlisted for literary award for young adult novel

Katrina Wiggins’ book Blind the Eyes is about climate crisis and monsters

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

It’s been eight years since Gordon Spencer (pictured), and cousin, ‘Lil’ Bruce Mayo, were gunned down in a home in Langley, and Spencer’s widow is hoping someone who knows something will step up (file)
Eight years on and still no answers in Langley double murder

Wife of victim makes public appeal for people with information to come forward

Langley resident Shaun Nugent, who died in 2019 shortly after he saved a swimmer from drowning, has been awarded a posthumous medal for bravery by the Royal Canadian Humane Association (Courtesy Nugent family)
Langley man who died after saving swimmer receives posthumous medal for bravery

Shaun Nugent rescued woman from Hayward Lake near Mission in July of 2019

Most Read