In a battle of two top-ranked volleyball squads Saturday night, the Mennonite Education Institute Eagles came out on top in the final of their own tournament.
The Eagles, the No. 1-ranked AA team in the province, beat Kelowna senior secondary’s No. 1-ranked AAA team in two sets, 25-19, 26-24, to make a statement as the high school volleyball season gets underway.
The KSS Owls had won last year’s tournament, and boasted a substantial size advantage over MEI. But MEI volleyball program co-ordinator Jeff Gamache said his team’s ball distribution proved pivotal in the final match.
“The hard work these guys have [been doing] for a long time has paid off,” he said. “A little team can beat a bigger team when you have great passing and serving.”
The victory, Gamache said, shows “at this point in the season, we’re on track to be there at the B.C. championships.”
The Eagles got big games from setter Jordan Koslowsky, right side Kaden Gamache and libero Keaton Boughen.
Koslowsky’s passing was crucial for MEI’s offence, while Gamache said Boughen “was just phenomenal, he was flying all over the court.”
The Eagles didn’t drop a set throughout the tournament, which featured top-five AA and AAA teams from around the province. That success came despite playing split squads through the tournament’s round robin. The depth of the team shone through in victories over Langley Fundamental and Princess Margaret, both top-five AA teams, and Fraser Heights, a top-three AAA team.
Left-sider Levi Block provided big hitting, while backup setter Simon Friesen showed the team’s depth at one of volleyball’s most important positions.
“This group, we’ve known since Grade 8 that they’re a special group,” Gamache said. “They’re just not huge.”
As the returning champions, KSS entered the gymnasium wearing hoodies won last year at MEI. The Eagles were also missing two players, including one of their top hitters, Jordan Loewen. But the tournament win proved the locals could overcome whatever size they lack, Gamache said.
“Their skillset has never been in question.”
The Eagles will head to Edmonton later this month to play in an international tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend.
“This could be our shot at winning it,” he said.
MEI’s junior volleyball team also had a good weekend, as they beat top opposition to win a tournament at Trinity Western University. MEI beat Langley Fundamental in two sets in the final after downing Pacific Academy in the semis. Colton Loewen was named most valuable player, while Carson Bargen and Matt Kornelson picked up all-star honours.