Spikers claim national U16 crown

Local volleyball players Ben Lieuwen and Jeffrey Driediger celebrated a national championship last weekend.

Local volleyball players Ben Lieuwen and Jeffrey Driediger celebrated a national championship last weekend.

The duo helped the Fraser Valley Volleyball Club’s under-16 Blue boys squad to the Tier 1 title in their age group at the Canadian club championships in Toronto.

The FVVC squad went a perfect 9-0 at the tournament, losing just three sets along the way. They were tested in the final by the Ottawa Fusion, dropping the first set 25-21 before rallying to win the next two by scores of 25-18 and 15-13.

Lieuwen, who plays right side, and Driediger, a middle, are both students at Mennonite Educational Institute.

“It’s a pretty sweet feeling,” said Lieuwen, 15, who took home tourney MVP honours. “Our whole team, we grew up watching the Trinity Western Spartans, and watching them win two (CIS) championships in a row (2011 and 2012) was pretty inspiring. So when we got a chance to do it, it was an honour.”

FVVC Blue head coach Jordan Geransky called his team “the most resilient group of 16-year-old athletes I have ever seen.” He cited an example from the tournament’s second day, in a game against Edmonton’s FOG Black.

Fraser Valley dropped the opening set 25-12 and everything seemed to be going against the team and the players could not get into a rhythm. The team found itself trailing 9-4 in the second set, but they found a way to battle back to win the set and tie the match, before taking the third set.

“It takes a very special group of athletes to maintain the composure to win that type of match,” Geransky said.  “Yet that is what they did all year.

“This team was pushed to the limits in pressure situations throughout the year and demonstrated the ability to overcome deficits in the most unlikely of scenarios.”

On the first day of the U16 nationals, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper’s presence in the stands caused a stir. He was in attendance to watch his son Ben play for the Ottawa Fusion, before heading off to the G8 summit on the weekend.

“That was really cool,” Lieuwen said. “We saw Stephen Harper on the first day of the tournament, and we ended up playing his son in the final. I met his son . . . and he’s a great guy.”