For West Shore volleyballers Gracie May and Taylee Pomponio, the second time was the charm competing at the Canadian Western Beach National Championships.
The 13-year-olds, playing in the 14-under division, captured the bronze medal, after going undefeated the first two days of com- petition.
A three-set victory (19-21, 21-16, 15-6) over fellow B.C. team Penner/Chong on Aug. 16 in Parksville earned the medal and saw them finish the tournament with a nearly flawless 8-1 match record.
“Overall, I was really proud of us,” May said of their efforts. “Last year was not as successful; we were playing against older girls. We were happy to be playing with (our own) age group this time.”
Their lone defeat was a narrow 21-17, 21-17 semifinal loss to the eventual gold medallists, Kroonje and Thompson from Alberta.
May attributed what she characterized as a slow start in the bronze medal match to disappointment over the loss.
But they quickly regrouped, got back down to business and improved as the match went on.
One of the highlights of the tournament was a 21-19, 21-17 power pool victory over B.C.’s Pantovic/Ostojic, the pair who beat them for gold at the provincial championships this summer.
“They’re very competitive and they came in wanting it again,” May said of the Vancouver-area team. “But Taylee and I talked about (strategy) before the match, having seen them before. It was really successful, our first passes were amazing.”
The West Shore girls, who will be teammates on Belmont secondary’s junior girls indoor team agreed communication on the court and off played a big part in their success this summer.
“I think we talked together pretty well, and we seemed to work
well as a team,” Pomponio said.
“This year it seemed that we practised a bit more and went into provincials and worked hard.”
May and Pomponio started the playoff round on the Sunday by sweeping an Alberta pair 2-0 (21-9, 21-9) in the quarter-finals on the Sunday.
In the 16-under girls division, two local pairs competing with players a year older also performed well, finishing far higher than their pre-tournament seeding.
West Shore players Savannah Purdy and Olivia Godek, who came in ranked 17th, finished second in their pool on day 1, as did the team of Hannah May (Gracie’s older sister) of Langford and Erin Mutch of Oak Bay (25th seed).
Repooling on the Saturday saw the two pairs in the same pool, with Purdy and Godek going 2-1 and May and Mutch 1-2.
The clubmates had one of their closest matches against each other, with Purdy and Godek winning 21-18, 21-19.
Godek and Purdy lost in three sets to an Alberta team, (21-16, 16-21, 10-15) in the Tier 1 (Div. 1) quarter-finals.
Relegated to Div. 2, May and Mutch peeled off a quarter-final win over Tepper/Lautrup of B.C., (21-15, 22-20), then downed Foxcroft/ Molengraaf of Alberta 19-21, 21-15, 15-4 in the semis.
After a nailbiting 21-18 loss to open the Div. 2 final against the B.C. duo of Franklin/ Yule, May and Mutch scrapped through extra points in the second set before losing 25-27 to take the silver.
“It was Erin and I’s first nationals together; I was proud of how we finished,” said Hannah May.
This past weekend, Purdy and her Ontario partner Charlie Holborn, who grew up in Langford, competed in the 15-under National Beach Volleyball Championships in Toronto.
After finishing round- robin with a 4-2 record, the duo advanced to the semi-finals where they lost to eventual champions Roscoe and Heeney of Ontario.
Mike Toakley, who coaches the girls during club season and will eventually do so at Belmont, said he continues to be amazed how quickly all the girls learned to adjust for conditions such as wind and the sand in the outdoor game.
“One of the things I like about the kids I’m coaching is they’re smart,” he said.
“They obviously are very good athletes, but they think their way through things.
“They call their own timeouts and unlike indoor, they decide when to call the coach over. It’s good for their development and teaches them to be more independent and problem solve.”