Argyle senior Christian Wels-Lopez has been the defensive catalyst of North Vancouver's No. 6-ranked Argyle Pipers. (Photo by Wilson Wong property of UBC athletics 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Volleyball

Argyle boys volleyball: On the road to a B.C. AAA breakthrough season, North Van’s No. 6-ranked Pipers find their own way to seize the day

NORTH VANCOUVER — With seniors like Christian Wels-Lopez, Eric Roundhill and cannon-armed Colby Soolsma there is a veteran-laden side to the Argyle Pipers’ senior boys volleyball team that is hard to miss.

Yet as the season was just beginning, head coach Shon Sim pondered the melting pot of talent which would become his 2019 Pipers, and to him, their was another half of the recipe which equally distinctive by the very nature of its youth.

And that’s because within the team’s starting seven-man rotation, there also happened to be Grade 10s at setter, middle and libero, as well as a second middle who was only a Grade 9.

“I sat down and I figured out the average age of the starters and it was 15.28 years,” begins Sim, who has nonetheless guided Argyle to the stretch-drive portion of the season at No. 6 in the Triple A tier, just outside of the Final Four favourites at Earl Marriott, Kelowna, Oak Bay and Claremont.

“When you look at it that way, we are essentially a U-16 team playing against U-18 competition.”

Except that in only its third year as a re-born program, the Pipers’ personnel is already game-tested, through its shared club volleyball experiences, as any of the teams vying to take home all of the spoils on the final Saturday of November. The B.C. championships will run Nov. 27-30 at the Langley Events Centre.

“It’s just the nature of having these kids since they were U-12s, their maturity on the court is so much more advanced than their age,” adds Sim.

Setter Elijah Sim (left) and dynamic hitter Colby Soolsma have been two huge ingredients in the 2019 success of the Argyle Pipers. (Photo by Sue Soolsma provided by Argyle athletics 2019. All Rights Reserved)

Elijah Sim, the coach’s son, is the team’s Grade 10 setter, and he is joined by fellow Class of 2022 grads Tait Moffat (middle) and Jason Tarazi (libero). There is also a Grade 9 middle in 6-foot-3 Quinn Viner.

Other Pipers include Grade 10 left side Max Tyson, Grades 11 Ben Lambie (left side) and Graham Mealing (middle) and seniors Daniel Tyson (right side), Ryan Downie (middle) and Joshua Park (libero).

And Soolsma is a giant talent within that mix. The senior transfer from Maple Ridge is one of the most imposing attackers in the province. In concert with Wels-Lopez, they have epitomized senior influence this season.

“Colby he has a cannon arm,” says Sim. “It is one of the heaviest arms I have seen. Teams triple-block him all of the time but he’s our terminator. And he and Christian have been our leaders. Christian has been an absolute rock on defence. Nothing gets by him.” 

The pieces are there. Now, it’s time to refine the chemistry.

“The biggest challenge has been finding a way to bring the team closer together,” says Sim’ “We’re now in an era where our Grade 10s are very strong, and we’ve got some very veteran Grade 12s, as well. Making then all as cohesive as we can has been tough.”

Argyle’s Colby Soolsma(4)  has one of the most powerful arms in the province. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2019. All Rights Reserved)

Yet if it can continue to gain traction, perhaps Argyle meet its most immediate team goal this season: Getting past the provincial quarterfinal round.

Over the first two seasons of their return, they have fallen to first to Earl Marriott and then last season to Claremont en route to back-to-back eighth-place finishes.

As Sim looks back over the what has been a relatively short journey, but one now seemingly perched on the threshold of a breakthrough, he has coined a credo he feels his team can embrace over the entirety of their season.

“Argyle’s Latin saying is Carpe Diem,” he says of the words for ‘Seize The Day’ emblazoned across the school’s traditional shield logo. “We’ve come up with W-I-N, which stands for What Is Now? It’s about this pass, this serve. In years past it was What Is Next? But this is such a young team that it’s not what is next but what is now. The way I see it, it’s the same message as Carpe Diem.”

And that’s because it’s a team that feels it is ready to seize the day when it matters most.

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