Pen High Lakers volleyball programs will be well represented in provincial action.
Both junior and senior teams advanced, with the Lakers junior boys team winning the Valley Championship at home on the weekend.
Coach Paul Mend was so impressed with his team that “it was the least amount of stress I ever had at a Valley Championship.”
Mend said the key to their success was preparation and his players executing the game plan.
“It was definitely a group effort,” he said. “They have been playing at a pretty high level for three weeks now.”
Other than their final match against the Mount Boucherie Bears, Mend said their scrimmages and practice were tougher than their games in the round robin.
“That’s how deep our team is,” he said.
Mend had positive things to say about the Bears in that they have a good, solid team.
“They are big, they are not as big as us, I would definitely say a top-10 team,” he added.
The Lakers coach felt the Valley Championship was a good test for his group as they “got pushed a little bit in the final.”
“As long as the guys continue to work really hard and execute and do what they’re doing I like our chances against anybody,” he said.
The Lakers junior girls volleyball team finished second at the Valley Championships.
They defeated Westside and Immaculata in pool play before winning a big match against Vernon on Friday night to win their pool. The Lakers then defeated Princess Margaret and Kalamalka, both in two straight sets to advance to the final.
In the final the Lakers lost two straight sets to Kelowna Christian by identical scores of 25-23. The Lakers will now play in the Olympic Oval in Richmond.
“It should be a great experience and if we play well, good results should follow,” said Lakers coach Robert Gunning. “This weekend was a group effort as the entire team played. Both Abi McCluskey and Mikala Vujcich set the ball very consistently all weekend. Hayden Craig led the team in kills, with Georgia Hurry, Annaka Ramsay, Lindsay Jones and McCluskey providing some balance to the offence.”
Hurry led the way with 12 stuff blocks with Maddi Everton and Craig getting some timely blocks as well. Jolene Gunning led the way on defense with 8 digs while Craig was close behind.
After defeating the South Kamloops Titans 3-1 to advance to the Valley Championship final, the Lakers were swept by the Kelowna Owls 3-0.
Coach Paul Smith said the match started close.
“KSS had an easier match,” said Smith of the semifinals. “I think we just didn’t get on track in the first game then just a few errors and all of a sudden they jumped ahead.”
Smith wasn’t happy with his team’s play because he didn’t feel they were mentally prepared. Smith hopes his team will learn from that mistake to perform better at provincials, which was their goal to reach.
Against the Titans, Smith was happy to see his players not give up. Even when they let Kamloops back in, they fought because they wanted it. The championship is being hosted by Handsworth in West Vancouver Dec. 1 to 3. Before the Lakers head there, they will play Fulton in Vernon for an exhibition game. Heading into provincials, Port Coquitlam’s Riverside is No. 1, followed by Richmond’s McMath, Handsworth, Kelowna, Surrey’s Earl Marriott and Penticton ranked No. 6.
The Lakers finished second in the Valley Championship in Kamloops after losing to Kelowna.
Pen-High came out strong and took an early two-game lead until KSS rallied back and won game three. Lakers coach Scott Harkness said game four was crucial. Pen High couldn’t pull through and lost 31-29. The Lakers lost the fifth game 15-13.
“I have to give a lot of credit to KSS for battling when they were down and stepping up at the right time,” said Harkness. “Very strong jump serving and dominant power hitting by KSS proved too much in the last three games.”
Harkness and the Lakers look forward to another shot to finish ahead of KSS in provincials, which is hosted by Kelowna Nov. 30 to Dec 4.
“I think my team looks great,” said Harkness. “They are peaking at the right time and are looking at doing some damage. Their passing is getting a lot better and they know now that they are one of the top teams and are starting to play like it.”
The Lakers will shift their focus to passing and getting at free balls. Serving will also be a key as KSS beat them with tough serving and the Lakers was inconsistent at times.
Heading into provincials, the Lakers are ranked No. 7, while KSS is No. 4 and Mount Boucherie is ranked No. 9.