The BC high school girls A volleyball provincials open Thursday in Castlegar but the field this year is much smaller than usual due to several factors.
“We started the season with 16 teams anticipating or hoping to qualify for the provincials,” says Joe Moreira, longtime coach at Mount Sentinel in South Slocan, which is hosting the tournament. “But we’re facing road closures and floods and throw COVID into the mix. Last week, we would have had 13 teams. On Sunday we went from 12 teams to seven.”
Among those teams that will not be able to make it are Unity Christian, ranked No. 1 most of the year, and Nanaimo Christian, which alternated No. 2 and 3 rankings with Mount Sentinel.
However, six other teams will participate: Osoyoos, Charles Bloom Secondary, Kings’ Christian, Cedars Christian, Fort St. James Secondary, and Ebenezer Academy.
On paper, Mount Sentinel would appear to be the favourite, but there are two complications. First, Moreira says all of the teams are unknown to each other. “We haven’t played or seen Osoyoos or Charles Bloom and so on. All the teams are coming in with a blank slate, not knowing what to expect.”
Secondly and more significantly, Mount Sentinel will be without its standout player, Jaylen Rushton, who sprained her ankle at a tryout camp Sunday in Kamloops for the junior Wolf Pack. She is expected to be unable to participate in competitive sports for two to three months, Moreira said.
“Without her, we’re a different team. We’ll do the best we can. The nice thing, and every team can make this claim, is if you’re in this tournament, you’re going to finish No. 1 through 7 in the province.”
The tournament was moved ahead one week in hopes more teams would be able to make it, but that posed some challenges in itself. Although Mount Sentinel is a volleyball powerhouse, Moreira says their gym is not ideal because of a low roof. In previous years that they have hosted the provincials, many matches have been held at Selkirk College or L.V. Rogers. LVR could not accommodate them because of a basketball tournament, but Selkirk managed to squeeze them in on short notice.
“Selkirk College has been so generous to find a way to get us into the gym,” Moreira says. “They made it work for us. [Athletic director] Kim Verigin had to do a lot in order for that to happen. We are so appreciative.”
Mount Sentinel’s opening match is Thursday at 10:15 a.m. against Ebenezer Academy. The final match is 5 p.m. Saturday.
Thursday’s matches will be held at Selkirk before the tournament moves to Mount Sentinel on Friday and Saturday. Spectators are not allowed, but all of the matches will be streamed on the school’s website.