After a near miss of a provincial berth a year ago, the Delta Pacers senior boys volleyball team is poised to be back in familiar territory later this fall in Kelowna.
It was in the early 1990s when the Ladner school became a regular participant in the B.C. showcase tournament under longtime teacher and Delta Sports Hall of Fame inductee Barb Salt. Since her retirement, the torch has been passed on mainly to her former players including Andrew Robson. He now has a prominent role at DSS as a full-time teacher and coach of both the senior and Grade 8 boys teams. He also has added the responsibility of athletic director.
Robson would like nothing more than to add a long overdue B.C. School Sports provincial champion banner to the walls of the DSS West Gym. It has eluded the boys volleyball program thus far but momentum is building.
Delta currently sits sixth in the latest B.C. AAA rankings released this week and was edged in a five-set thriller by cross-town rival and No. 4 ranked Seaquam in South Fraser Premier League play on Monday night.
The team to beat in the region is the No. 2 ranked McMath Wildcats.
Delta fell in four hard-fought sets back on Sept. 26 and could see the Richmond school again at next month’s South Fraser Championships that will determine berths to the provincial “AAA” championships, hosted by Kelowna Secondary.
No. 7 Elgin Park and No. 8 Steveston-London should also be right in the mix in a highly competitive zone.
“It’s kind of (McMath’s) to lose this year. They are just a very skilled team,” said Robson. “I think in terms of across the province, I think it’s Kelowna as No. 1 by far and McMath at No. 2 by far. After that, there’s probably 10 to 12 teams in that No. 3 through No. 14 area that on any given day anything can happen.”
For years, the Pacers had to deal mostly with strong Surrey teams in the old Fraser Valley zone. Now, their main competitors are in Richmond with the new re-configured South Fraser Region.
“Surrey is still there with a team like Elgin, but Earl Marriott has gone from being a perennial powerhouse to not even playing in tier one anymore,” added Robson. “In the past couple years Richmond schools have made quite the push and we’re hanging around with them.”
With solid starts to the Grade 8 and junior teams’ seasons as well, the Pacers are positioned well for the years ahead.
“I haven’t been around forever, but I have hard time envisioning the program ever being in a better place. Our Grade 8s just competed at the Langley Christian Tournament that typically always has the top teams and came in second place, even though we were missing a ton of guys (to other sports),” Robson added. “Our juniors were second at Trinity Western then third at the WJ Mouat Tournament.
“I’ve got some really good (alumni) people helping me out this year and they deserve all the credit. It’s making my life easier and I’m grateful for that.”