Seaquam Seahawks' Kris Espezel (4) and Luke Elias (12) helped the North Delta school to second place at last weekend's UBC Invitational. (UBC athletics photo by Richard Lam)
Feature High School Boys Volleyball

Seaquam boys volleyball: How the seeds of a new sport culture came to root

NORTH DELTA — This may sound funny, but North Delta’s ‘newest’ high school turned 40 a few weeks ago. 

And over the course of four decades, Seaquam Secondary’s Seahawks have represented themselves, over various stretches, as a basketball school, a girls volleyball school and a football school.

“But there had never been a section in the trophy case for boys volleyball,” says Leanne Chow. “Our incentive now is to keep adding to it so that it just gets bigger and better.”

What started with 2014’s groundbreaking run to the B.C. Triple A championships under former head coach Zack Lund has just grown stronger under current boss Chow, who last season led the Seahawks boys to the provincial final four at the sport’s highest tier.

This past weekend, the Seahawks continued their strong run of invitational tournament play by placing second at the prestigious UBC Thunderbirds Invitational at War Memorial Gymnasium where the North Deltans fell to Edmonton’s power-house Harry Ainlay Titans in the gold-medal final.

“It was a huge weekend for our team because we have gone through some emotional times already this season,” says Chow of a Seahawks team which won the Camosun Chargers invitational in Victoria to start the season, earned a No. 4 B.C. ranking, but then lost league matches to No. 2 Semiahmoo, No. 3 Fraser Heights and No. 9 Delta.


A brief history of boys sports at Seaquam?

Football is at an all-time high at the school these days.

Coming off a B.C. Double A Subway Bowl title last season, the second in school history, the No. 5-ranked Seahawks have moved up to Triple A this season and have not missed a beat.

In fact you could argue that its Triple A Western Conference tilt Saturday afternoon at the school against No. 2-ranked New Westminster is the biggest high school football game ever played on its Sunshine Hills grounds.

Basketball has faded as of late, yet the Seahawks have played in two top-tiered B.C. high school championship finals over their history, producing such top players as current UBC Thunderbirds head coach Kevin Hanson, and from the 1988 finalists players like Rick Gill and Bob Hoy.


Chow, who works closely with Lund through the newly-formed Element Volleyball Club, knows that nothing happens overnight.

This first wave of boys volleyball popularity has itself been years in the making, with Lund cultivating the seeds of the sport and enjoying a breakthrough when the 2014 Seahawks became the first team in two decades to make boys senior varsity provincials.

That same year, Chow, a Surrey elementary school teacher and club coach at Eagles’ Volleyball, had come to Seaquam where she began coaching a Grade 9-exclusive boys team in the Fraser Valley junior varsity league.

Many of those players from her first year have remained with her and now represent the core of her senior class.

“What makes this team special is that we really don’t have any height and we don’t have one player who on a nightly basis carries our team,” explains Chow. “So to win, we actually have to do everything together. We all have to attack from different positions. The things that we don’t have, they’ve made us work as a team.”

And slowly, the results have begun to attract attention and help the program gain traction.

In 2014, the Seaquam JV’s finished fourth in B.C. to support the provincial tournament appearance of its senior team.

In 2015, the junior varsity medalled at the Fraser Valleys.

And of course last season, the Seahawks went to-to-toe with Semiahmoo in the Big Kahuna B.C. Triple A provincial semifinals at the Langley Events Centre, falling to the eventual B.C. champions and settling for fourth place.

Seaquam senior Luke Elias is one of a core group of Seahawks that has played together since their first days at the school. (Richard Lam/UBC athletics)


It’s certainly not an overnight success story.

Yet Chow, a former high school setter from Vancouver’s Eric Hamber Secondary, admits that the players are going through a period of transition as they come to grips with their success on the provincial level.

“It’s been challenging because it’s taken the boys some time to warm up to the fact that we have built something for ourselves,” says Chow, who has coached the team’s original core of setter Elijah St. Germain, middle Kris Espezel, left side/right side Spencer Koyanagi, left side Maxwell Maichin, right side Kyle Ciello, middle/right side James Allen and setter Luke Elias throughout their high school careers.

“It’s like the underdog story, and now we’re struggling a bit with realizing we’re good and so now we have to have our mental game, too,” she continues.

“That’s why the UBC tournament was so huge for us. We had to really fight to find positive energy, show our will to win, and in the end, find a way to believe in ourselves.”

A with all of that come victories on so many other levels, not the least of which is creating a new culture for boys volleyball in a place where its roots had yet to be planted.

And if the 2017 Seahawks have their way, they’ll be pushing for more and more space in the school’s trophy case.

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