The Princess Margaret Mustangs’ bronze medal victory almost never was.
Their trip to the AA Big Kahuna BC High School Boys Volleyball Championships in Langley nearly ended near Princeton where their bus slid off the road. The incident occurred last Tuesday when co-coach Andrew Sexton hit a patch of ice while driving. Shawn Lum, the Mustangs other co-coach, said Sexton did a great job behind the wheel.
“He realized that he didn’t have control of the bus. He kind of guided the bus into the safest part possible. There were large embankments on either side,” explained Lum. “There was a few little bumps and bruises. Nobody was hurt, thankfully.”
Lum described the accident as an out of body experience. Five seconds after the crash they gathered themselves. Lum said his and Sexton’s first priority was to check on the kids, who were also looked after by paramedics. Physically the students were fine, but suffered a little emotional shakeup.
“It was terrifying. It all just happened so fast,” said student-athlete Spencer Kingzett. “One thing led to another. It was a weird experience but the team definitely handled it very well. A big relief. It was honestly a miracle that nobody got hurt. We literally just came out with a few scratches and that was the worst of it, very lucky.”
The Mustangs questioned if they would even make it to provincials.
“It was really tough,” said Kingzett.
The team finally caught a break when road conditions cleared up and Maggie principal Terry Grady gave them the go-ahead to continue their trip.
“The kids were fired up, they were so excited,” said Lum. “We almost had to go back to Penticton and provincials were almost over. Having so many people help us out. We want to say a huge thanks to the Princeton school district (No. 58 Nicola Similkameen). They chained up one of their buses to come pick us up and bring us back to a hotel in Princeton, which was amazing. We owe Princeton school district a lot for helping us get to the provincials. Kids were absolutely ecstatic being able to still go.”
The Mustangs forfeited their first match against top seed Mennonite Educational Institute, who went on to claim the provincial championship. Maggie lost to Clarence Fulton from Vernon 27-25 and 25-19 and defeated Woodlands in three sets, 15-25, 25-18 and 15-12 in the round robin. It was difficult for Lum to watch as he knew the players were unable to perform like they could from being tired.
On Thursday, the Mustangs defeated Smithers 25-19 and 25-14 twice in the playoffs.
That win earned them a meeting with sixth seed College Heights, who they defeated (3-2) 26-24, 15-25, 25-17, 25-27 and 15-12 to face No. 2 seed Clarence Fulton again in the semifinals. The second seed took the first two sets, then lost the next two before winning 16-14 in the fifth.
After that loss Lum said it was a good thing the semifinals and medal matches were on different days.
“The kids were heart broken after that game. Having it so close. It was just like valleys repeated,” said Lum. “The kids really believed, I believed that we’d get that win.”
The Mustangs skipped the spike competition and gave themselves time away from the court to mentally prepare for the bronze medal match against Woodlands, who they faced for the third time this season. After beating them at the Thompson Rivers University tournament earlier in the year in Kamloops, the Mustangs stuck to the same strategy they used all season.
“It was really nice. Coming from where we did and some of the struggles that we had, seeing them pull together as a team and seeing them go from a lot of very exceptional individual athletes to being a very exceptional volleyball team was really satisfying to see,” said Lum. “Coming back well rested, they were pumped up for their bronze medal game.”
Kingzett said it was a great way to end Grade 12, as part of the Mustangs’ first volleyball team to medal in provincials.
“It was really rewarding,” said Kingzett. “Sort of pushing through the bus crash and getting there late, we just persevered. The whole motto of the trip is don’t stop believing.”
Along with Kingzett earning first-team all-star honours, Kyle Kohlhauser made the second team all-star and Colton Van Camp received honourable mention. Also on the team contributing to the finish were Cody Poitras, Cam Kapusty, Jacob Winstone, Brett Lavigne, Keegan Hawlie, Brett Van Os, Duncan Woods, Kohl Linder and Connor Graham.