By Gary Ahuja (Special to VarsityLetters.ca)
LANGLEY — It will be No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the final game of the high school boys volleyball season on Saturday night at Langley Events Centre.
No. 1 are Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners, looking to cap a season in which it has lost just one match, while No. 2 are the Van Tech Talismen, aiming to become the first-ever Vancouver city team to win a top-tiered senior boys title.
Those will be the spoils on tap Saturday (6 p.m.) as the Kahunaverse Sports B.C. Volleyball Championships conclude its four-day run at the Langley Events Centre.
In dominating fashion, as it has done all week, Earl Marriott rolled into Saturday’s title tilt, defeating Victoria’s Claremont Spartans 3-0 (25-14, 25-23 and 25-12).
And while the Mariners were cruising to victory, Van Tech was on the adjacent court battling Burnaby’s tough Moscrop Panthers in a rematch of the Lower Mainland final a few weeks ago.
In Friday’s other semifinal, the Talismen took the first two sets, 25-23 and 26-24, before the Panthers extended the match with a 25-20 win in set three. Van Tech would close things out in the fourth set by that same 25-20 score.
Now, both head into the B.C. final leaning on the experiences they endured at the 2017 championships.
From the Mariners’ perspective, it was the disappointment of a season which ended being coloured by the wrong shade of medal.
“That was a huge letdown last year,” admitted head coach Al Schill whose charges took bronze. “We didn’t say it, but we fully expected to be in that (championship final) and win it too. That was our goal all year because the core of (that team) is still here.”
Earl Marriott returned six Grade 12s from that team and gained five Grade 11s who helped the junior team go undefeated en route to the provincial title in 2017.
And this Mariners squad has been a machine, going 3-0 on Wednesday to win their pool without dropping a set.
That momentum has continued in the playoff round with Earl Marriott dispatching Burnaby South in the round of 16 on Thursday, and then on Friday against Mt. Boucherie in the quarter-finals and Claremont in the semifinals. All three elimination matches were won 3-0 and only twice in the nine sets did an opponent get more than 18 points.
“The beauty of it is we did it by committee,” said Schill. “All the guys got into the game and had a meaningful impact when they did. That to me makes the win that much better.”
Van Tech head coach Aaron Lock, a former player for the Vancouver school, said making the championship game — a first in the history of the program – is the culmination of hard work from himself and all the Talismen coaches.
“I would love to say it has been a long time coming but we have just been grinding it, working it,” he said.
This is his third season as head coach and last season, the team qualified for provincials, placing 11th.
Eleven of the 12 players from that team are on this season’s squad and that taste of playing at the highest level motivated the players to work even harder through the summer in preparation for their Grade 12 season.
“Last year was all about the experience. The learning curve was steep last year (but) they saw what they could potentially do,” Lock said.
Claremont and Moscrop will battle for bronze at 2 p.m.