Kelowna athletes golden at beach nationals
Kelowna athletes proved they belonged with the very best at the 2013 edition of Volleyball Canada's Beach Nationals.
Last weekend at Spanish Banks in Vancouver, the Kelowna duo of Tanner March and Jeremy Finn stepped to the top of the podium in the men's U21 division, while Kelowna's Quinci Birker teamed up with Thana Fayad of Victoria, both 15, to capture gold in the girls' U16 division.
Teammates with the Camosun College Chargers, March and Finn came out of pool play at nationals in last place, but more than made up for it in the playoffs.
In the quarters, the Kelowna duo took out a team from White Rock in straight sets, 21-15 and 21-18.
In the semis, March and Finn came up against another B.C. opponent and emerged victorious over Ryan Thain and Matt Bonshor 22-20 and 21-13.
In the final, March and Finn were pitted against Team Ontario, the favourites and only undefeated team in the U21 tournament.
The underdog Kelowna pair responded with wins of 21-15 and 21-17 to capture their first national championship gold medal.
"We weren't expected to win, there was no pressure on us, so we just came out swinging," said March, 20. "We played disciplined, played loose and got lucky. Our heart was in it all the way, and it was great to come out with gold."
March is a graduate of OKM, while Finn played his high school volleyball at Mt. Boucherie.
Meanwhile, the top-ranked B.C. team and third in Canada going into nationals, Quinci Birker and Thana Fayad, both 15, joined forces this season and had immediate success, including winning the higher U16 girls provincial title.
At nationals, the B.C. pair went undefeated in pool play, then 3-0 in power pool play to head into the playoffs without a defeat.
In the round of 16, Birker and Fayad took down the B.C. duo of Dufour and Attieh 21-14 and 21-17, then ousted Manitoba in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
In the semi-finals, Birker/Fayad rolled over the duo of Nini Breukels and Tamara Clarke 21-14 and 21-11.
In the final, Birker and Fayad had to fight from behind against Tessa Neil and Darby Dunn after losing the first set 21-13.
In the second set, as Fayad served, hit and blocked hard, Birker dug every ball hit her way and showed her beach prowess with numerous superb crafty plays at the net. Birker/Fayad won the second set 21-16, setting up a tiebreaker.
In the deciding set, Birker/Fayad got an early lead and maintained a three-point cushion until the Dunn/Neil duo pushed back to make it a one point game at 10-9. But Birker/Fayad regrouped for a final push and clinched the win and gold medal with a 15-12 victory.