PORT COQUITLAM — The Red Serge Invitational is always a huge deal on the B.C. senior girls high school volleyball calendar.
Yet this time around, with its return to play following last year’s cancelled season scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, the anticipation is almost palpable at the longtime host school.
“Oh man, it’s been two years, and I think this is our first major event running at the school,” exclaims Bryan Gee, head coach of the Riverside Rapids, whose school one again, on the eve of the post-season stretch drive, extends its invitational welcome to what has to be considered so much of the cream of the provincial crop for two days of intense competition.
“The entire athletic department and all the athletes are excited to getting back to our normal traditions and pride we have at out school.”
The cherry on top if all?
Riverside enters the event ranked as B.C. No. 1 at Quad-A, the tier for the largest high schools in the province.
Also taking part is preseason Quad-A No. 1 and current No. 2 South Delta Sun Devils, North Vancouver’s No. 4-ranked Handsworth Royals and Kelowna’s No. 7-ranked Okanagan Mission Huskies.
From Double A are No. 1 Abbotsford Christian Knights, No. 2 Notre Dame Jugglers and Surrey’s No. 3 Pacific Academy Breakers.
Also taking part are Coquitlam’s Pinetree Timberwolves and Abbotsford’s MEI Eagles.
The host Rapids have enjoyed a rewarding return to the court this season, highlighted by an early meeting against the Sun Devils and a number of entertaining matches against East Van’s Jugglers.
South Delta beat Riverside in the quarterfinals of the UBC Invitational in Week 1 of the season, and over the weeks since have reached the championship finals of invitationals at Trinity Western, Douglas College and Handsworth.
Riverside beat Notre Dame in the finals at TWU, but a week later, showing the parity which has traditionally existed at the top end of the tiers, irrespective of classification, the Jugglers turned the tables on them, topping Riverside in the Douglas College final.
This past weekend in North Van, the same two teams wound their way to the final of the Royals’ invite, and this time the Rapids took top spoils.
With a tip of the cap to the graduated 2021 class which lost out on the extracurriculars of their senior season, the Class of 2022 is inhaling every moment of the opportunity to close out their Grade 12 season.
“As a coach starting up in September, it was really interesting because we hadn’t coached in two years,” explained Gee.
“We were able to run some practices and training , but for the kids, it’s been all about learning to compete again, learning how to train again, learning how to deal with injuries, adversity and a schedule, and they’ve come in not having had seniors to look up to” he said. “They have been learning how to do things at the highest level again.”
Fittingly, for the first truly grand-scale student body gathering, the Red Serge will open Friday as if it were one big, joyous class assembly.
The Rapids will answer the call of first serve by hosting Pacific Academy during school hours, the 12:45 p.m. start sure to be an emotional gathering.
Competition will continue through the rest of the day and through Saturday with the championship finals set to close things out at 5:45 p.m.
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