OWLS, PANTHERS SET TO BATTLE IN 4A GIRLS FINAL

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The Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers celebrate during the quarter-final victory on Friday night at Langley Events Centre. Photo courtesy of Paul Yates Vancouver Sports Pictures

A loss (at the right time) can sometimes be a blessing.

At the South Fraser championships, the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers (one of the province’s top teams all season) suffered a loss to Elgin Park, knocking them out of contention for first place in their zone.

The Panthers recovered to place third but subsequently found themselves seeded eighth for this week’s 4A BC Secondary School Volleyball Provincial Championships.

Given a much harder road to navigate if they hoped to play for provincial gold, the Panthers passed all the tests, setting up a showdown with the No. 1 ranked Kelowna Owls as the provincial championships conclude at Langley Events Centre on Saturday. The game gets underway at 6:30 p.m.

“You are never glad to get a loss but I’m glad it happened then and not this weekend,” summed up Panthers coach Sara Corneil, moments after her team defeated the second-ranked Lord Byng Grey Ghosts 3-1 (25-22,19-25,25-8,25-19).

“It is really nice being ranked among the top teams in the province, but it also puts a target on your back. When we lost the match to Elgin in the playoffs, it was a real reset that we have to pay attention to the details and take care of business on our side if we want to be successful in our provincial run,” she added.

The other semifinal saw No. 1 Kelowna win 3-0 (25-12,25-10,25-16) over the No. 5 Handsworth Royals.

The Owls are looking to successfully defend their 2018 title.

Getting back to the gold medal game was a realistic goal for the team which returned four core players from last year’s championship run. But Kelowna has battled injuries along the way, leading to some inconsistency.

“We have had our ups and downs, we have definitely had our season of injury. I think resilience has been important. Being unconventional when we needed to be,” explained coach Kelly Hettinga. “We moved players around on the floor when we have had injuries. The versatility within a few players just gives us lots of options to deal with that.”

Corneil has coached the core of the Panthers team since the U13 level and last year marked a program-best third place showing for school.

“We have always been talking about our Grade 12 year and what was going to happen. We knew that if we played our best volleyball, we could earn ourselves a spot in the final.”