It’s difficult to define a perfect season, especially in team sports with so many moving parts.
But one would be hard pressed not to use the word when speaking of the Belmont Blue junior girls volleyball team’s 2015 campaign, which wrapped up with a provincial school championship victory on Saturday night in Delta.
The Langford-based squad’s 2-0 (25-17, 25-18) win over MEI of Abbotsford in the B.C. final was, by Belmont coach Ken Lowe’s calculation, was their 95th and 96th set wins without a loss against junior competition this season.
“It’s a great season, it’s magical, a perfect season for us,” he said Sunday. “There was a lot of pressure on us to do well (at provincials), obviously created by our own team … this is truly a team where a lot of people do a lot of good work for each other.”
Not only did the win cap a dominating season for this group of mostly Grade 10 players, it secured the first B.C. championship banner for the new Belmont gym and fourth overall for the school.
When she heard Lowe’s claim of going 96-0, power hitter Savannah Purdy said, “I thought that was pretty great, but winning the provincials was just like the cherry on top.”
Purdy enjoyed a personal celebration on top of the team win. Her jarring hits and timely kills earned her the tournament’s most valuable player award.
While the final match of the 32-team tournament saw Belmont face a tough and skilled opponent, Lowe said, it was not the closest of the weekend for the girls. That came in the semifinals, won 25-23, 25-18 over St. Thomas More from Burnaby.
Not once, but twice the mainland side put the eventual champs back on their heels to start a set.
The first game saw Belmont fall behind 19-11, then 20-13 before getting a sideout to cut St. Thomas More’s lead to six and regain serve. Middle blocker Sydney Belton took the ball and served for eight straight points to help give her team a 22-20 lead.
While Belmont had the momentum following the come-from-behind win, Lowe said, St. Thomas More jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the second set.
“They were playing tremendous defence and doing well to keep the ball in play,” he said of their opponents. “But we clawed our way back and took control, winning most of those long rallies.”
Purdy noted that a timeout and a pep talk from Lowe in the first set got the team back on track.
“He reminded the team that we’ve come back from that much before,” she said. “We knew we had to go out and play our game and (that’s what) we did.”
With Belton serving, Belmont slotted Gracie May into the front row. The middle blocker stuffed St. Thomas More’s big hitter on a few occasions during the comeback, a situation that “changed the whole complexion of their front row,” Lowe said. With less pressure coming from opposing hitters, Belmont was able to get the ball to setter Taylee Pomponio. She expertly fed the ball to Purdy for those often unstoppable hits, and fellow power Olivia Godek, whose versatility on the court gave Lowe’s team numerous different looks on offence and defence.
Belmont went 3-0 in round robin play and cruised to victory over Riverside of Kamloops in the playoff round of 16. It was a 2-0 win (25-12, 25-19) over Surrey’s Pacific Academy in the quarter-finals that really got the Belmont girls going, Purdy said.
Last year at provincials, Pacific bumped into the consolation bracket the Grade 9 Spencer middle school team featuring most of this year’s Belmont girls.
“Spencer got 10th last year, but this year we got our revenge,” Purdy said of beating Pacific. “It just fired us up even more and we were more determined to win. We really wanted to bring home a banner for the new Belmont.”
Also gaining recognition for their overall play, right side Hannah May and libero Miranda Cyr were named to the tournament’s first all-star team. Lowe said players like Pomponio, Gracie May, Godek and Belton could likely have also earned all-star nods given the way they played.
Purdy noted that the majority of this group has been playing together in club and school play for the past five years or so. She’s excited to see what happens when they all move up to the senior level next season, but for now was content to savour their first Belmont banner.