Senior boys volleyball teams from across the province will travel from as far as the Fernie/Sparwood area to battle for the provincial title here in Terrace this year.
This is the first time ever that Centennial Christian School has hosted single-A volleyball provincials, and their senior boys are competing in zones this weekend and could very well be top provincial contenders.
The showdown will draw the best 12 senior boys teams from across B.C. to compete Nov. 24-26 at Skeena Middle School and the gym of the old Thornhill junior school (now the Northwest Trades Training Centre). Centennial’s gym is too small for this calibre of volleyball, explained principal Edgar Veldman.
The teams of Grades 11-12 boys will travel between Skeena and Thornhill, where close to 12 games will be played in each gym per day. A schedule will be posted online at provincials.centennialchristian.ca as soon as zone championships are completed, likely Nov. 15.
Centennial is buzzing as more than 100 volunteers organize and train to be officials, scorekeepers, and linesman, said Veldman and organizing chair Joel Ringma.
Volunteers will even video all the games with mounted iPads, and live steam them on the website.
“It’s exciting for us (in the north),” Veldman said, adding that they hope it will be a unique experience for the team.
Coaches Wes Holubowski and Joel and Kristine Ewald are gearing the team up for the big day.
As they’re expecting some large crowds and home support, Kristine said she is glad the team has experience in high pressure games at previous provincials.
“Hosting can put more pressure on the team, but I think it’s going to be really exciting,” she said.
“There’s something about being in a home gym. It can be a really positive thing and I think they’ll really enjoy having home fans and all of their friends and families watching… they’ve been to provincials a few years in a row so I think they will do well under that pressure.”
This is the sixth consecutive time the Centennial Seahawks have been to provincials, and they climb the ranks each year, earning second place in 2014 and claiming first last year.
Coach Holubowski said only a few players have changed this year, with libero Lindsay Ewald graduating and several Grade 9 players joining the roster. The team had a bit of a rough start this season, adjusting to playing without Lindsay who was a strong defensive passer in the back row.
“We had a little struggle with our passing, getting used to doing it without having [Lindsay] playing,” Holubowski said.
They added Grade 9 players Ben Mantel (as libero) and Jacob Ringma, and coach Kristine Ewald said both have been consistently strong players on the roster.
With only three ‘A’ teams in the northern zone, the senior boys have travelled twice to Prince George and once to Kelowna to compete this season.
The team struggled a bit in Prince George as they adjusted, but Kelowna was a huge boost, with the team triumphing to win first in the B pool.
They seized six victories and suffered only one loss that tournament, which had 40 teams and was packed with ‘AA’ and ‘AAA’ teams.
Twice they beat Abbotsford Christian, the team Holubowski jokingly calls their “arch-nemesis,” because they have been rivals in provincial finals for the last two years.
Centennial beat them in the round robin, and then faced them again in the finals for the B pool.
Holubowski said it was a tight competitive game, despite both teams feeling a bit tired from their previous five games that day.
Terrace seized the win in the first set, Abbotsford claimed the second, and both teams battled the third set to a narrow 15-13, with Terrace squeezing out the win.
Holubowski said the whole team rallied together and Grade 9 players showed their strength.
“They played awesome,” Holubowski said. “The whole team rallied and the junior players did incredibly well.”
He says the team strength is their character and depth.
“They’re very calm, they’re very focused and they always seem to find another gear,” he said, adding that they get along really well.
“They’re able to dig deep and if they’re down in a match, they don’t give up on themselves,” he said.
One game in Kelowna, Holubowski said they were down 10 points (out of 25 to win a set), but were able to ace a few serves and then slowly fight their way back into the game. He says the other team got a few more points, but Centennial ended up winning the set quite handedly.
Kristine agreed that the team has strong character, is really respectful of referees and opponents, and are usually quite positive.
Though they’ve had a few games earlier this season where they got down on themselves, “now that they’ve found their flow, they are usually really positive,” Kristine said.
“One thing I love about the team is that they have really good attitudes. They have strong character and are easy to coach… and they are really respectful of refs and other players,” she said.
Looking ahead, Centennial and teams from Smithers and the Queen Charlottes are competing in zones this weekend, Nov. 11-12, at Thornhil Junior (now Northwest Trades).
Centennial has an automatic berth to provincials as the hosting team, but Kristine said that regardless, she hopes they play their best.
“If we play to the best of our abilities, and have a consistent game, we should do very well,” she said.
“The boys have extreme talent. We have a good shot if we work hard and continue to play as a team.”