Calling your tournament the Best of the West is one thing. Making it the best of the west is something else entirely.
But organizers of the Best of the West senior boys and girls volleyball tournament in Kelowna this weekend have done just that with one of the biggest and most ambitious high school volleyball tournaments on the volleyball schedule.
Ninety-six teams will meet in Kelowna—48 girls and 48 boys teams—to compete for the title of Best of the West.
The event has come a long ways from where it began, as a 16-team tournament in 1996.
“This truly is the biggest and the best test for everyone in B.C. especially at this time of the year,” said KSS senior girls coach Tony Sodaro, whose team heads into the tournament as the number one AAAA girls team in B.C. “This gives all the top teams a chance to play all the other top teams. Everybody gets equitable competition all weekend long with a chance to move up and play some tougher teams.”
Teams range from the top AAAA schools on the girls side of the draw and AAA on the boys side down to the smaller schools at the AA and A level. Every region of B.C. is represented from the north to the Kootenays, Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
And Kelowna and area schools will be front and centre at all levels. Along with the Owls senior girls, who have won the Best of the West three straight years and have won two tournaments in a row this year, there are plenty of other top local schools taking part.
The KSS senior boys are ranked number three in boys AAA while Mount Boucherie is ranked number eight. George Elliot in Lake Country is the fourth-ranked AA team while perennial powerhouses Kelowna Christian and Immaculata sit near the top of the single-A rankings.
Both the boys and girls sides of the draw are littered with top 10 teams in B.C. while a half-dozen schools from the Edmonton area will bring competition from across the border.
Aside from being the largest single tournament on the calendar the Best of the West is also unique in that it brings boys and girls teams together in one gymnasium—or in this case four gyms. Unlike in college, where men’s and women’s teams travel together and play one after another, the high school schedule rarely has boys and girls teams playing together.
“The fact that it is boys and girls coming together adds a new dimension,” said Sodaro. “All year we don’t play in the same gym, from the pre-season to the provincials, the guys and girls programs are completely separated. This is kind of nice. University programs travel together as boys and girls teams. I think this prepares the players for what’s ahead.”
Four gymnasiums are being used as games begin this morning at KSS, UBCO, Immaculata and Kelowna Christian. The headquarters of the event though is KSS, where leadership students have been preparing the school all week, showing up in school colours, building a large tournament program and filling the school with the spirit that sports events provide.
“This is another way to promote school spirit,” said tournament co-organizer Fane Triggs. “I think it’s just great for the kids. We try to promote all the activities at the school and volleyball is one of them. It’s another way to make school fun for kids. Kids are really working hard these days and they need to have some fun things to look forward to.”
Games will take place all day today and Saturday with the finals set to take place in the KSS gymnasium on Saturday beginning at 4 pm.