Senior girls' volleyballer Hannah May attacks while her sister

Powerhouse Bulldogs volleyballers off to stellar start

Belmont girls take over top ranking in the province after a tournament win at UBC

The Belmont senior girls’ volleyball team had high expectations heading into the 2016 season. With a young squad made up of Grade 11 students, it was always just a question as to how quickly they could adjust to the senior level.

So far, so good.

The Bulldogs have spiked, served and dug their way to the top AAAA ranking in the province following a pair of tournament victories, while besting North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals, the pre-season ranking favourites, on back-to-back weekends.

The ’Dogs are a perfect 12-0 in tournament play, which included a win at the prestigious UBC Invitational last weekend. While they’ve been tested by several schools in addition to Handsworth, they’ve managed to come out on top in each contest.

At UBC the Bulldogs beat Mount Doug in a close semifinal before winning in a comfortable two sets over Handsworth. That was in stark contrast to the previous week’s matchup with the Royals, which went to three sets and required a big comeback from the Belmont side.

Head coach Mike Toakley says his team showed rapid improvement during the weekend at UBC.

“The girls got better and better as the tournament went along,” he said.

The final started out as a close battle, but the ’Dogs took over in the latter stages of the first set and didn’t let up. “Once we got momentum, we kind of rolled over them,” Toakley said.

Part of that rapid improvement, he explained, is the team simply getting comfortable playing at the senior level, especially against a highly-regarded team like Handsworth.

“Handsworth is the defending provincial champion … for us to be playing them as a first-year senior high team in our first tournament, that was a big deal. But once we did beat them, I think that helped us mentally to have less nerves going into this final match at UBC.”

Belmont’s work on both ends of the service game remains a strength. The team is versatile enough to be formidable on the attack and when defending, but the chemistry developed between long-time teammates might just be the team’s X-factor.

“Some of us have been playing for five years together and we’re all really good friends,” said Savannah Purdy, who at 6’1” lines up as a power hitter. “If there’s a ball coming in between my libero and I, we know who’s going to get it. We’re really good at communicating on the court.”

Toakley sees that chemistry showing up as well, likening it to a flock of birds who change directions gracefully as a unit.

“Your opponent will do something that catches you a bit by surprise and you have to respond as a group … if anybody responds and they’re out of sync, then you’ve got a big hole somewhere and the ball always finds the hole,” he explained.

Toakley had coached many of the girls in club volleyball prior to them graduating to Belmont’s senior team and Purdy credits her coach with helping the players continually improve.

“He’s been a great coach. We really like his coaching style because he never stops teaching us new things. I feel like I learn something new every practice,” she said.

Despite their early success, the Belmont girls aren’t looking too far ahead, knowing that the road to even make the provincials is a challenging one with several Vancouver Island teams vying for just one of two spots.

“If we can get to the provincials I think we’ll do well, but we have to get there, which means getting off the Island,” Toakley said.

The Bulldogs hosted league matches on Tuesday and will do so again two more times this season, including Oct. 18. The Island zone championships are scheduled for the end of November with the provincials to follow in early December.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Clipper suspends services through April 2021

International travel restrictions, COVID-19 uncertainty lead to decision

Who is the average Sookie?

Statistics Canada, community members offer glimpse into who the people of Sooke are

UPDATED: Power restored to Metchosin, Colwood

Monday morning outage impacts more than 2,600 BC Hydro customers

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

Colwood library reopens for public use July 18

Limited services offered Monday through Saturday

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Most Read