Being put to the test will only help the Pen High Lakers senior girls volleyball team down the stretch.
At least that’s what Lakers coach Robert Gunning hopes for with the Okanagan Valley championship on Nov. 16 and the Lakers hosting the AAAA provincial championship starting Nov. 28.
The Lakers returned from Coquitlam where they went 1-4 to finish ninth in the Riverside Secondary School Rapids tournament last weekend. Gunning watched as his team lost to No. 1 ranked South Delta, Pinetree Secondary, Kelowna Secondary and Pacific Academy. The highlight, said Gunning, was defeating No. 4 ranked Earl Marriott, who finished third.
“It is always a very difficult tournament. A lot of matches in a short time and always playing very tough opposition,” said Gunning. “After going to the tournament, we know we can play with some of the province’s best teams, we just have to be a little more consistent and play every point a little tougher.”
Earlier in the season Gunning said for the school to host provincials is great. Not just for the school, but the community.
“It’s a fabulous opportunity,” he said of having 16 teams, about 200 players and 35 coaches as well as parents. “We’re really excited about it. It’s a great opportunity for our kids.”
For the Grade 12s, he said it’s a fabulous way to end a career regardless of the result. Kaylie Loewen is one of the graduates Gunning refers to. She said it’s a huge honor and is excited. She has been to provincials before in Grade 10 with a club team.
“We just want to put on a good show for everyone who has put in time and effort for us,” said Loewen. “I think this team has what it takes. We just have to buckle down and push hard. It is our home tournament so we need to show what we’re made of.”
Loewen added that having the home crowd behind them will be a huge boost.
“It should be great and hopefully the city will embrace it and that will be awesome,” said Gunning.
In assembling the squad, Gunning didn’t make it tougher for students to earn a spot than usual. There was no added pressure on players. Gunning said by hosting provincials, it makes the season easier for the players.
“All that matters is that we’re playing well at the end of November,” he said. “We don’t have to qualify. All these matches during the season are just building blocks. I like our chances. We can play with a lot of teams out here. We’re excited about that opportunity.”
The Lakers wrap up league play Wednesday when they travel to Rutland Secondary to face the Voodoo.
“It will be nice to get a little time off next weekend to recharge for the valleys, and provincials,” said Gunning.