Hampered by injuries and short of substitutions, the Victoria Volleyball Association 17-under women’s team still turned heads at the provincial club championships in Richmond.
The squad, stocked largely with West Shore players, knocked off teams from volleyball academies that specifically groom players for the collegiate ranks, before running out of steam in Saturday’s final. Victoria Black lost 2-0 (25-27, 16-25) to Vancouver’s Team Academy, the No. 1-ranked side who had lost by the same score to VVA the day before in a preliminary round match.
Despite “limping” into the tournament, in coach Mike Toakley’s words, No. 2-ranked VVA Black mustered heart and grit to post a 3-0 record in a power pool on day 1 against the other three of B.C.’s top four rated teams. After defeating the Fraser Valley Blitz 2-1, Victoria swept both Academy and the Thunder club from Vancouver.
They swept Vancouver’s Seaside Surf 2-0 (25-10, 25-19) in Saturday’s quarter-finals and later edged the arch-rival Thunder 2-0 (25-23, 26-24) in the semis. Having to wait around for other matches to finish before playing the final, fatigue started to set in, Toakley said.
“It was a long day and the girls were exhausted,” he said. “The lack of depth was telling and our momentum ebbed away. It was hard for them to get the energy level back that was necessary to play a team of that caliber.”
Toakley gave Academy kudos, calling them an “incredibly good team” that always brings its A game to the big matches.
Despite their club not being set up like the academies whose elite teams it was playing, VVA Black wasn’t short on premium talent. Many members of this year’s 4A high school girls B.C. champion Belmont Bulldogs were in the lineup, including provincials MVP and much sought-after future collegiate player Savannah Purdy, fellow front-court stalwarts Hannah and Gracie May and durable setter Taylee Pomponio.
Three members of the team would actually qualify to play in the 16U division, Toakley noted. Other players included Miranda Cyr and Olivia Godek from Belmont – Sydney Belton was out due to knee surgery – plus Oak Bay’s Erin Mutch, Reynolds student Abby Willett and Ashley Marshall from Nanaimo.
A handful of VVA and Belmont players are being courted by university and college programs, Toakley said, with more likely to be identified next season when they’re in Grade 12. At the 17U team’s season-opening tournament in January, a 130-team pre-collegiate tournament in Oregon in January where VVA finished in the top 25, a number of college scouts inquired into the availability of West Shore players, he said.
As for the B.C. club season, Purdy, Hannah May and Mutch were named to a 12-person all-star team. Purdy and Mutch will play for Team B.C. this summer at the National Team Challenge Cup, but ahead of that the VVA Black will contest the national club championships May 5 to 7 in Edmonton.