While watching his Kelowna Owls compete over four days in North Vancouver, coach Tony Sodaro witnessed a level of determination and resolve that wasn’t about to be denied.
The 2011 KSS girls squad won the school’s first ever B.C. AAAA girls volleyball championship, defeating the Riverside Rapids in four sets in Saturday’s gold medal match.
“You could see the gold medal in their eyes, these 16- and 17-year-old athletes were absolutely dialed in,” said Sodaro, the Owls’ head coach. “You talk about being in the zone and that describes how the girls were all weekend. They were the hardest working team, it was a real war, but they were having fun doing it, too. That was a big key to their success…they had fun playing for each other.”
Safe to say, members of the Owls have never had more fun than the moments following their victory over Riverside in the final Saturday night at Handsworth Secondary.
After dropping the opening set 23-25, an undaunted KSS squad roared back with three straight wins, 25-23, 25-21, 25-17.
Sodaro said every Owl on the court stepped up their game new heights when it mattered most.
“We were up against a phenomenal team, but that’s when (captain) Kaitlynn Given took over the match for us,” Sodaro said. “Katelyn Valgarson was the steadiest player in tournament, Breanne (Enright) and Alia (McLure) made some amazing digs, Amanda (Hait) really started to take over, and Cayte Wilson put in a great great performance. She was the best setter at the tournament.”
Perhaps the Owls most dominant showing came in the semifinals as KSS routed host Handsworth—the defending B.C. champs—3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-17) in their own gym.
“The crowd, the parents, our fans, they made so much noise it was like home court advantage. Every point was a battle, but we just beat them up.”
The Owls started 2011 with a bang, winning the UBC, UBCO and Best of the West tournaments and spent much of the season ranked No. 1.
But a spate of injuries—nine players in all—slowed the Owls down in the middle and latter stages of the season and wins were harder to come by as they slid in the rankings.
But when it counted most, KSS delivered the goods.
“What we went through earlier, all that adversity really motivated the girls. They made it through the disappointments and just grew stronger and stronger. In the end, the ranking didn’t matter. The goal all along was to bring home the banner and we did that.”
It was the first win by a senior girls top level volleyball team in Kelowna in 60 years. Kelowna High School won the B.C. championship back in 1951.
Graduating captain Kaitlynn Given, who was named the tournament’s MVP, said after the disappointment of missing out on a medal in 2010, nothing is sweeter than gold in 2011.
“This means the world to us,” said Given. “We’ve been talking about this all season and nothing less than gold was going to be good enough. Every single player pulled together and made this happen.”
Cayte Wilson earned first all-star honours, while Hillary Schell was named to the second team.
The provincial gold medal-winning Owls are: Kaitlynn Given, Alia McLure, McCall Capozzi, Hillary Schell, Amanda Hait, Mackenzie Reynolds, Breanne Enright, Cayte Wilson, Trot Taneda, Gabrielle Down, Natasha Balske, Megan Witala, Katelyn Valgardson, Megan Peleshytyk and Erin Konrad.