Three teams from the Elk Valley placed in the top eight at last week’s 2017 BCSS Girls A Volleyball tournament, hosted in Fernie.
Elkford took fourth place, Sparwood placed fifth, and Fernie landed in eighth out of 17 teams registered in the tournament. One of the teams competing was from Haida Gwaii; a team that had not qualified for provincials in close to 40 years. They finished last, but returned home with their heads held high.
Unity took provincial gold after winning three sets to one against Kelowna Christian, Saturday night.
The Fernie Falcons entered the tournament ranked fifth overall. After the first day they went up one rank. They then won their crossover which put them into the top five positions. In a hard battle, they lost to Elkford and dropped out of the top four.
Fernie head coach Andrea Reed said a few injuries contributed to their loss. The first injury was Emily Lightburn, a setter on Fernie’s starting lineup. Fernie then lost another setter, and other players were substituted into those positions. Reed says this changed their whole dynamic.
“When you have somebody else playing a position they’re not used to, it does,” she said.
“Fernie put up a great fight,” said Elkford Celtics head coach Dustin Murray. “Tons of defense, tons of offense, great all around.”
On Saturday morning, Fernie played against Sparwood to see who would play for fifth position and who would play for seventh. They lost to Sparwood, and played Nanaimo Christian for seventh position. They lost, and took eighth overall.
Reed has coached the Fernie team for the past three years, and was excited to find out that provincials would be coming to the team’s home town.
“I think it’s a great experience for our communities,” she said. “And being able to have games in Fernie and Sparwood has been awesome.”
She said there had been great community support in both places.
Comparing this year’s provincials to previous years, Reed noted how all the teams were quite evenly matched.
“There’s not a single team that’s standing out as number one, it can go any way,” she said on Friday night.
Sparwood started the tournament ranked 11th, and after the first day they climbed three positions to eighth. They won their first crossover Thursday morning but lost to Kelowna Christian. On Saturday morning they beat Fernie, taking fifth position overall.
The Elkford Celtics placed fourth overall after a tough battle with Stratford Hall on Saturday night. To get to that point, they defeated Fernie on Friday, launching them into the top four. On Saturday morning they lost against Kelowna, which sent them into the bronze medal game against Stratford Hall.
The bronze medal game was a best-of-three match. Elkford lost the first set by just four points, and knew they had ground to make up. The second set was very close, and Elkford was ahead.
The game was tied, 20-20. Elkford scored, and scored again. Stratford then scored, and scored again. 22-22. Elkford needed to score three more and secure the set to stay in the game. In a flurry of confusion, two Elkford players took aim at the ball and struck it to the ground. 23-22 Stratford. Nerves took over the Celtics, and a lack of communication caused the ball to drop to the floor. Elkford brushed away the nervousness and scored. 24-23. Elkford spiked it over, it was spiked back. Elkford set the ball up, and while spiking it over, touched the net, allowing Stratford to score another and take the win; 25-23.
This team has been playing together since the eighth grade, but are comprised of grade 10 and 11 girls. Comparatively in this tournament, they were a younger and less experienced team.
Celtics coach Dustin Murray said on Friday night that his team was doing unbelievably well, “Beyond exceeding expectations.” Even after losing against Stratford Hall on Saturday night, his attitude hadn’t changed. However he admitted that nerves were evident.
“The other team was phenomenal, they served so hard and our girls couldn’t quite handle it, coming down in the end.”
Murray said that there were so many high points in the game it was impossible to mention them all. The coach looks forward to next year when his girls, one year older, can compete in this tournament again.
Elkford has competed in provincials in previous years, but has never had a shot at a medal.
“Fourth in a province is phenomenal for the area,” said Murray. “Best finish our school has ever had, for sure. Hopefully we can build on that going forward.
“Next year hopefully we’ll grab that medal.”
Paragraph 2 – 17 teams were registered in the tournament, not the province.
Paragraph 14 – Sparwood finished in fifth position, not sixth.
Paragraph 15 – The Elkford Celtics defeated Fernie on Friday, not Sparwood, which launched them into the top four.