The Ladysmith Secondary School senior girls’ volleyball team has been one of the top teams in the province all season, and this week, they’ll face their biggest test as they compete for the provincial title.
The 49ers are going into the AA provincials ranked fourth in the province. They’ve been ranked as high as third in B.C. this season, and they’re excited to head to Brentwood College this Wednesday to Saturday for the provincial tournament.
The team has had a great season so far, winning both the North Island title and the Island championship.
At the Islands, held at St. Michaels University School earlier this month, Ladysmith beat Brentwood College 3-1 (25-16, 13-25, 25-20, 25-13) in what turned out to be a rematch of the North Island final.
“Overall, it’s been really, really good,” coach Stephen Epp said of the season. “We’ve finished in the top five in every tournament we’ve played in. We won the Dover tournament and went undefeated at the Islands and North Islands.”
Epp believes a lot of this year’s success comes from the way the girls work together on the court.
“There’s a lot of talent on the team, and we do a really good job of working together as a group,” he said. “We all get along really well, so it’s a great team atmosphere. There’s good team cohesion.”
On the court, he thinks one of their strengths is that everybody has a role and everyone knows what their job is.
Coming into the year, Epp says he knew this was a “really talented group,” and they expected to do well. They’ve been plagued by injuries but been able to fight through.
“I’ve never been on a team that had so many injuries as this team,” said Epp. “But it doesn’t matter who comes out of the lineup; someone else steps up and does it. We’ve just battled through it.”
The team has shown a lot of depth during the season.
“Throughout the year, we’ve had four different all-stars at tournaments, which shows how deep the team is, and there are others who have played really well also and could have been recognized as individuals,” said Epp. “The best thing about this group of kids is they’re a really nice group of kids, and I’ve really enjoyed working with them.”
Twelfth-grader Shelby Dorman-Banks, who was the MVP at the Islands, thinks great coaching is a big part of the team’s success this year.
“I’d say because we’ve all been playing for so long, but even the new players coming in, the team meshes really good,” she said.
Kelsey Hutt, who is also in her final year, agrees.
“Most of us know each other really well, and we’re friends outside of volleyball,” she said.
Dorman-Banks and Hutt feel the team’s strengths on the court are offence, blocking, communication and how they play together.
“It’s just fun, playing all together,” said Dorman-Banks. “We have a good time.”
For Hutt, winning North Islands and Islands and having good coaching were highlights so far this season.
Dorman-Banks agrees that winning Islands was really fun, and she liked going away to tournaments and spending time with the team.
“The biggest highlight is the coaching and our team,” she said. “It’s been really good. We’re so lucky.”
A week before provincials, Epp said the team is working on refining everything, making sure of their system, and making sure they’re prepared physically and mentally.
Looking ahead to provincials, Hutt says she is excited.
“I think we’re prepared, excited, kind of nervous,” said Dorman-Banks. “Being that it’s our last year, we’re anxious that we do well. It’s been a five-year process we’ve worked very hard for and finally come to the end of it. We’re feeling prepared.”
“It’s kind of like this is it,” she said.
Members of the Islands- and North Islands-winning team are Robyn Bishop, Shelby Dorman-Banks, Emery Urquhart, Kelsey Hutt, Taylor Ellis, Marika Grubac, Elise Keeping, Shayleen Magnan, Gabby Knoop and Madeline Hayton.
The provincials take place Nov. 26-29 at the Brentwood College Sportsplex and Frances Kelsey High School.
Ladysmith’s first games are Thursday, Nov. 27 at Kelsey 2. The girls begin the tournament at 12:05 p.m. against Selkirk and then play at 2:45 p.m. against St. Pats and 5:25 p.m. against Hatzic. For more information, visit http://aavolleyball.brentwood.bc.ca/.