There was no panic from coach Ross Ballard with his team trailing 2-0 in the penultimate game of their season.
Ballard’s Little Flower Academy Angels had their hands full against Vernon’s W.L. Seaton Sonics on Saturday morning at Langley Events Centre with a spot in the BC Secondary School Volleyball Provincial Championships 3A girls’ gold medal game.
“I told them to just calm down and play volleyball. The other team was playing fabulous so if we just stayed patient and played the way we played, nine times out of 10, I expect my team to be able to win,” he said. “I told them we have beaten teams 3-0 before, now we just have to do that.”
In the Angels’ first five matches at the provincial championships, they had yet to drop a set and only once in those dozen sets had an opponent even reached 20 points. But the fourth-seeded Sonics gave LFA all they could handle, winning the first two sets 25-15 and 25-20.
And even after the Angels extended the match thanks to a 25-12 win in set three, the Sonics came racing out of the gates to go ahead 7-0. LFA responded by knotting the score at 11 on their way to a 25-20 victory. With momentum on their side, the Angels cruised to the 15-8 win to take the match 3-2.
“I never lose faith in this group, this is a pretty incredible group of girls,” Ballard said.
Even down 7-0 in the fourth set, the coach felt as his team responded by playing with nothing to lose.
“We just got on a roll and that’s the way it works in high school volleyball,” he said.
Their opponent in Saturday’s gold medal clash (which gets underway at 4:30 p.m.) will be the tournament’s second seed, the Carihi Tyees.
The Tyees held off the No. 3 Dawson Creek Penguins 3-1 (25-22,22-25,25-21,25-17).
Just like their gold-medal opponent, Carihi has been dominant over the first few days of the provincial championships as Saturday’s second-set loss was the first dropped by the Tyees in their six games.
Carihi looks to finish what they came agonizingly close to doing last year: winning the provincial title. Last year, the team dropped a five-set heartbreaker, falling 16-14 in the deciding set with the gold medal on the line.
“These girls really, really want this badly, and they know they have to play one point at a time. That was a good experience for us to be in a loud, crazy final last year,” said Tyees coach Jacquie Chase.
This year’s roster features just three players who were part of that squad as the 2019 squad is predominantly Grade 11 (there are two Grade 12s and one Grade 10).
And while the team talked about making a return to the championship game, the message from the coach has been simple.
“You just have to go play the game. If you are thinking ‘oh, this is the provincial final’ it brings in too many stresses,” Chase explained. “Play hard, have fun and you will be proud of yourself. You can’t always control the outcome of a game.”
Little Flower Academy, which finished fourth in 2018, looks for their first provincial title since 2016. It would also be their third title this decade, having also won in 2012.