Kelowna Owls capture B.C. volleyball gold

Senior boys push through after 5 silver medals; KSS Owls girls bag bronze at 4A provincials, Mt. Boucherie 5th

The Kelowna Owls, five times the silver medalists at the B.C. AAA High School Senior Boys Volleyball Championships, pushed through and won gold Saturday, Dec. 11, in Richmond, defeating the Elgin Park Orcas of Surrey 3-1. (Instagram photo)

The Kelowna Owls, five times the silver medalists at the B.C. AAA High School Senior Boys Volleyball Championships, pushed through and won gold Saturday, Dec. 11, in Richmond, defeating the Elgin Park Orcas of Surrey 3-1. (Instagram photo)

CONTRIBUTED

Originally supposed to be a coronation on home soil, the Owls from Kelowna Secondary School had to adapt to a relocated tournament, losing their best player and the weight of a history of silver medals.

Kelowna was scheduled to host the ‘AAA’ Boys’ high school volleyball championship this year, but after the flooding and highway washouts the event was originally delayed and then moved to Richmond. With 15 of the qualified teams from the Lower Mainland, BC School Sports made the decision, with support of Kelowna, to move the event to McMath Secondary and Steveston-London Secondary just days before the event.

The challenges didn’t end there as Kelowna lost Sebastian (Seba) Manuel, a Grade 12 athlete generally accepted as the best player in the province, on the first point of their second round robin match on Day 1 of the tournament. What was supposed to be a team so dominant, playing on their home court, now was being challenged in unexpected ways.

KSS head coach Mike Sodaro joined the KSS staff in 2010 and has led the Owls to the provincial championship tournament each year since his arrival. The 10-year run had seen the Owls finish second a staggering five times, never being able to secure the coveted BCSS championship banner.

Until Saturday, Dec. 11.

After cruising through the first day of power pools, and then the round-of-16, quarterfinals, and semifinals, without dropping a set – in-fact, no team scored more than 20 points in any of their games – the Owls were met with a talented and athletic team from Elgin Park in Surrey.

The Orcas were led by Grade 12 setter Nicholas Johnson, whose ability to put the ball in the perfect spot nearly every time for his hitters, put pressure on the Owls they hadn’t seen throughout the tournament. The first set saw the Owls balanced attack manage the pressure and take a 25-21 victory.

The second saw the teams’ trading points, and a 21-21 score, before a big block by Kelowna middle blocker Hudson Farrell, turned the tide and a few Elgin errors led to a Kelowna 25-22 win.

While nobody would have blamed Elgin for packing it in after being down 0-2, Johnson, with teammate and middle blocker Kendall Homenick, found another gear and willed their team to an early lead in the thirrd set. Kelowna pushed to narrow the lead down to three in the middle of set, before Elgin regained control and gave Kelowna its first set loss 25-19.

With Kelowna facing its first test of real adversity in the championships, the question was on how they would respond, and their class showed through. With Grade 11 setter Walker Sodaro, continuing to run the offence seamlessly while still adapting to the loss of Manuel earlier in the tournament, the Owls started to stretch a lead in the middle of the fourth frame, and didn’t let Elgin Park have any momentum. It was fitting when Sodaro went back and served an ace to close out the match and secure Kelowna’s first Boys’ volleyball title since 1953 (68 years).

Kelowna Coach Mike Sodaro in post-game remarks stated: “I will tell you this. These players have been coached by a number of coaches from Kelowna over the years and we are fortunate to have a coaching community in Kelowna that takes time to develop these young men into great athletes.

“They have all followed the KSS volleyball program over the years and we were committed from day 1 to make this the year that we finally got that gold medal. We are so proud of them, and their hard work has paid off, even when our team captain went out. This was a great team effort. Special thanks to my coaching staff Brady and Steve.”

Walker Sodaro was named tournament MVP, Farrell and outside hitter Sam Jablonski were named first-team all-stars from KSS, and teammate Gavin Margerison was named to the second all-star squad.

The Owls advanced to the final by sweeping Victoria’s Claremont Spartans 3-0 in the semifinals. Elgin Park needed five sets to defeat the McMath Wildcats in the other Final Four contest that started at McMath Secondary but was finished at Steveston-London Secondary due to a power outage with McMath up 5-3 in the fifth and deciding set.

McMath defeated Claremont in five sets in the bronze-medal game.

OWLS WIN BRONZE, BEARS FIFTH AT GIRLS’ 4A PROVINCIALS

Kelowna Owls were third and the Mt. Boucherie Bears finished fifth at the B.C. AAAA senior girls’ volleyball finals in Nanaimo.

The Owls went 3-1 in the preliminary round and eliminated Mt. Boucherie from championship contention with a quarterfinal 3-0 victory. KSS fell 3-0 to the top-ranked South Delta Sun Devils in the semifinals, then rebounded to sweep the Nanaimo Islanders for the bronze medal.

The Riverside Rapids of Coquitlam rallied from 2-1 down to beat South Delta 3-2 in the gold-medal contest.

The Bears were 3-0 in the preliminary round and advanced out of the round of 16 with a straight sets win over Yale Secondary prior to the matchup with Kelowna.

Mt. Boucherie defeated Mountain Secondary of Langley and Pinetree Secondary of Coquitlam to finish fifth.

Abby Hettinga of the Owls was named to the tournament’s first all-star team while teammate Taryn Hope was named the tournament’s top libero. Kirsten Hill of Mt. Boucherie was named to the second all-star team.

READ MORE: Riverside wins senior AAAA girls’ provincial volleyball championship in Nanaimo

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The Kelowna Owls won the bronze medal at the B.C. High School Senior Girls AAAA Volleyball Championships in Nanaimo. (Instagram photo)

The Kelowna Owls won the bronze medal at the B.C. High School Senior Girls AAAA Volleyball Championships in Nanaimo. (Instagram photo)