At no point along a four-year volleyball journey did Bryan Gee ever underestimate the size of the collective heart which beat within the roster of his Riverside Rapids’ girls volleyball team.
Yet come Monday morning, even the team’s head coach had to admit that the performances of his team at the most critical junctures of this weekend’s B.C. senior girls Quad-A volleyball championships in Nanaimo were the most special ever, ultimately completing a trilogy of excellence.
“I am still in awe of what they did,” Gee said after the Rapids rallied from the brink to first defeat Nanaimo District and then South Delta in the respective semifinals and finals to capture the first B.C. Quad-A team championship banner across any sport in school history.
The Rapids’ seniors had won the B.C. title as Grade 9s and then again as juniors in Grade 10 in the 2019-20 season before losing last season to the pandemic.
“Honestly, in the moments we were down and out, we kept finding ways,” said Gee, whose team rallied from identical 2-1 set deficits to beat the Islanders and then the Sun Devils in five-set thrillers over the three-day event staged at Nanaimo’s Dover Bay Secondary. “It was just their sheer heart and desire to overcome. They have a resiliency but also a level of care and compassion for each other. They are an amazing, unique and beautiful team.”
And worthy champions based on the quality of team they had to get past in the South Delta Sun Devils.
“For Dan Burgess, and all of the things he has done at South Delta, we have nothing but respect for them,” Gee said of the Tsawwassen squad, so many of whom have connections with the Rapids through shared time together over the years within the club system.
“That made the match even more emotional,” said Gee. “But the reality is they beat us on our own home court, in the final at our Red Serge tournament, and our girls were not happy with that. They carried that with them. I knew it would help make for a great match.”
Indeed it did,
Riverside won 3-2 (25-17, 15-25, 23-25, 26-24, 15-9) but needed an epic fourth-set performance after the Sun Devils’ own epic third.
Down 24-23, the Rapids’ captain Emily Wezeman, later selected a tournament first-team all-star, served out to save her team’s season, setting the stage for a deciding 15-9 fifth-set victory and the title.
“The seconds felt like an eternity, but the girls regulated their emotions, and their effort and energy was incredible,” added Gee. “But it was so intense the kids were having trouble breathing.”
The match was preceded by a 3-2 semifinal win over Nanaimo District in which Islanders’ fans produced a level of noise that at times had the Rapids struggling to maintain their focus.
In the end, however, they won 27-29, 25-18,13-25, 25-17, 15-9.
Riverside’s Annika Trask was selected tournament MVP while Wezeman and Jayden Armstrong, along with South Delta’s Mackenzie Campbell and Jane McDonald were honoured as first-team all-stars. Joining that quartet were Nanaimo District’s Tianna Kehler and Kelowna’s Abby Hettinga.
Lauren Way of Riverside and Myah Cressy of South Delta were among a group honoured as second team all-stars (full list below).
Riverside’s senior power hitter Ava Pocrnic served out the final five points of the match and was outstanding under pressure while throughout the tournament, libero Marcella Mahon made some spectacular digs and was a key piece in the championship puzzle.
Rounding out the top eight in order from third to eight: Kelowna, Nanaimo District, Mt. Boucherie, Pinetree, R.E. Mountain, Seaquam.
Host Dover Bay raised over $2,500 for B.C. Children’s Hospital in memory of the late Michelle Reilly, a former Dolphins player who lost her battle with cancer. The host team and Vancouver Island champions had played the tournament in Reilly’s honour and finished in 12th place.
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER
Annika Trask – PoCo-Riverside
FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS
Tianna Kehler – NDSS
Abby Hettinga – Kelowna
Mackenzie Campbell – South Delta
Jane McDonald – South Delta
Jayden Armstrong – Riverside
Emily Wezeman – Riverside
SECOND TEAM ALL-STARS
Megan Jones – Coquitlam-Pinetree
Kirsten Hill – kelowna-Mt. Boucherie
Simran Rai – North Delta-Seaquam
Alannah Wright – Nanaimo District
Lauren Way – PoCo-Riverside
Myah Cressy – South Delta
Taryn Hope – Kelowna
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