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.


Just Posted

Victoria Shamrocks shoot for the WLA title on home floor

Senoir lacrosse team takes on Maple Ridge in Colwood Sunday at 6 p.m.

Oak Bay doctor the pulse of Island’s heart failure clinic

Dr. Elizabeth Swiggum has headed heart clinic for past 14 years

Annual study shows high satisfaction with B.C. post-secondary schools

Study also reveals men tend to dominate higher paying jobs in the trades

Pavement work to close Fort Rodd Hill

Historic site scheduled to be closed to public Sept. 3 to 6

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Trudeau to meet with U.K. and Japanese prime ministers ahead of G7 summit

French President Emmanuel Macron, this year’s G7 host, has little expectations of a unified front from the leaders

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Big rally in northern B.C. draws attention to continuing lumber crisis

Mayor Joan Atkinson says about 400 workers have been directly affected by the closure of the Canfor mill

Orangeville Northmen take Minto Cup at Langley Events Centre

Swept best-of-five series 3-0 over Victoria Shamrocks

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

POLL: Should there be a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers?

We’ve all heard them, and most likely cursed them under our breath.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read