The route to provincials was a little more circuitous than they might have liked, but the Belmont Bulldogs senior girls volleyball team appears to be hitting their stride at the right time.
The West Shore side rolled through the wild card tournament in Port Coquitlam on Saturday, winning four straight matches without a game loss to capture one of two extra berths into this week’s B.C. AAAA high school championships in North Vancouver.
They enter the provincials seeded 10th and tackle host Handsworth (No. 4 in last week’s rankings), Delta’s Seaquam (No. 6) and North Peace (No. 16) in round robin play Thursday (Dec. 1).
As Bulldog coach Mike Toakley pointed out, Belmont is not your typical 10th seed, having beat Handsworth twice and Seaquam once in tournament play this year, not to mention a number of other seeds above them.
“It doesn’t matter what happens in the round robin in terms of continuing on (to the championship round), but you give yourself the best possible draw if you do well,” he said.
Should Belmont win their pool, they would essentially take over the fourth seed and play the fourth-place finisher in an opposite group. If they kept winning, they wouldn’t potentially face another pool winner until the semifinals.
But as Toakley explained, teams can’t look too far ahead – and this is the provincials.
“In the end if you’re going to do well you have to beat good teams,” he noted.
Bulldogs power hitter Savannah Purdy, who tweaked her neck in practice before the wild card tournament and was a question mark for those matches but wound up playing the final two, said she’s feeling “a lot better” after resting up somewhat.
One of a numbers of Bulldogs who won the 2015 junior girls B.C. championship with Belmont, she said the players are feeling good heading into this week’s season finale.
“I know we’re capable of doing big things …” she said. “We’ve been together so long as a team and we play really well together. I definitely have lots of confidence in us.”
While losing a couple of matches to Mount Douglas late in the season dropped the Bulldogs out of the No. 1 spot in B.C. and ultimately forced them to win a wild-card berth – injuries and the absence of key players were a factor – Purdy likes her team’s chances.
“It was weird being at the top for so long and then just losing and having to go to the wild card, but it made our team better. We’re so much more focused now – and we know to never take any game for granted.”
In Saturday’s wild card event, Toakley said, “the volleyball gods really smiled us on this time.”
He was referring to a draw that saw Belmont defeat South Surrey’s Semiahmoo in their last of three round robin matches to finish first in their pool, a matchup that ultimately negated the need to play a final.
The Bulldogs handled Vancouver Technical in the semifinals, 25-18, 25-15, while Semiahmoo beat the host Riverside team in the other semi. Organizers wanted a final played to help with seeding for provincials, but as the two teams had already played, the Bulldogs were allowed to catch an earlier ferry and were spared a fifth match in what was already a long day of volleyball.
Toakley planned a light practice schedule for this week before the squad leaves for North Van on Wednesday (Nov. 30).
“We’re going to go in there with a real sense of purpose,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting the job done.”
Interested fans can find up-to-the-minute results and possibly catch the Bulldogs in action on a live stream from the provincials. Watch the tournament website at site3904.goalline.ca for more information.