CAMPBELL RIVER — Make an epic run to the B.C. AAA title match as a No. 8 seed from a school that has never, ever taken home all of the marbles, then fall achingly short of the grand prize?
That was the journey one year ago for Campbell River’s Carihi Tyees senior girls volleyball team.
“We had a few Grade 12s last year, but most of the girls have returned, and they have got that memory etched,” explained Tyees’ veteran head coach Jacquie Chase on Tuesday. “They loved being in that final. It was exciting, and they’d really like to get back.”
Of course the dynamics can never be exactly the same.
Last season, as a burgeoning group of underclassmen came together at just the right time with now-graduated senior setter Rebecca Tazumi, Carihi seemingly captured lightning in a bottle at the Triple A provincials.
The Tyees, in fact, upset the tourney favourites, Vancouver’s Crofton House Falcons, in pool play, but ultimately fell to them in the fifth-and-deciding set of the provincial championship title match.
As the march towards this November’s B.C. championships at the Langley Events Centre continues, Carihi is learning to adjust to its new position as the team to beat at its tier.
Yet while the Tyees have been stationed at No. 1 in the AAA poll the past few weeks, Chase prefers to ignore the stuff which exists only on paper.
“For us, it’s truly just about playing for the point that is right in front of you and being all business,” said Chase, whose team this week travels to North Vancouver for Friday-Saturday’s Handsworth Royals Invitational. “The more we get that ‘we should win’ mentality’, the more it sets you up for bad things to happen. Just keep playing for the point in front of you, and then move on.”
It’s been working and the Tyees hope they can carry a building momentum into the provincial championships next month at the Langley Events Centre.
While Tazumi has departed, the Tyees have a generational talent on their hands in 6-foot-2 left side Grade 11 Emoni Bush, who along with Tazumi was named a first-team provincial all-star last season. Bush will fortify Carihi’s roster over the second half of the season as she comes off a busy schedule of recruiting visits stateside, including Pac 12 Conference schools.
“Emoni is a dominant player and she transforms us when she is on the court,” acknowledges Chase, whose own daughter Sarah was voted B.C.’s best high school player back in the 2014 season when she starred across town at rival Timberline. “(Bush) will have a very high kill percentage but she is a really great passer, too, and her play in the back has really improved.”
Three setters, led by Grade 11 Reese Davidson, and including Grade 10 Emma Knight and senior Jana Hobenshield provide the quarterbacking.
Grade 11’s Ashton Bruining and Taya Brideau are the middles, while the right side has Grade 11 Austin Cameron and senior serving specialist Reanna Botel, and the left side Bush, and fellow Grade 11s Delaney Ewing and Kyla Lucas-Johnson.
Grade 11’s Paige Davidson and Shea Watson provide a tremendous defensive presence.
And of course, last season’s experience is bringing extra fuel to this year’s journey.
“I have been here since 1992 and there is no banner hanging in the gym,” says Chase. “When we met as a team early in season, the provincial final was one of the things the kids wanted to get back to. And it was a heck of a good time.”
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