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Glory days poised to return for Sun Devils volleyball

Senior girls team loaded with talent captures UBC tournament to open season
Sun Devils volleyball
South Delta Sun Devils have made plenty of early noise to open the senior girls volleyball season, including a big tournament win at UBC.

The South Delta Sun Devils are a provincial-contending force again in senior girls volleyball thanks to an abundance of talent and plenty of hard work on and off the court.

Following a year-long hiatus after the 2020 season was wiped out by COVID-19 restrictions, the Tsawwassen school has come out swinging, rolling to an impressive triumph at last month’s UBC Mizuno Tournament with six straight wins.

A look back at the 2019 campaign and it’s not too difficult to see why the early success and bright outlook for the squad.

The current Grade 12s won the inaugural South Fraser Zone junior girls title in 2019 coached by Taka Katsube. Meanwhile, Kevin McGregor was working with an exceptional group of Grade 9s that would have contended for the B.C. title if they weren’t strangely kept out of the invitational tournament.

Four of his former players suited up for Team B.C. this past summer and senior girls coach Dan Burgess’ biggest challenge this season is finding enough playing time to keep all 15 of his players happy.

“There are a lot of things in play here,” said Burgess, who is once again joined on the bench by co-coach Gaitlin Saip. “Kevin has been doing a great job fostering the program. Back in the day, I had to do it all, where now, he has taken over getting them to go play (at the club level too). He has really promoted, very effectively, at the Grade 9 and 10 level and we are starting to see the benefit of that.

“To see this current crop of Grade 11s is just outstanding. There are four girls, who no doubt in my mind, can play post-secondary if they want to.”

Those four are Rachel Rosser (5-foot-10 middle/outside), Myah Cressy (6-foot-1 middle), Mackenzie Campbell (6-foot setter/outside) and Esther Lim (5-foot-7 libero/outside). Tayah Meehan, Anna Tanaka, Bianka Filc, Sara Tisovska and Georgia Kwiatkowski round out the Grade 11s. Seniors include Lauren Wright, Taylor Katsube, Kate McDonald, Jane McDonald, Olivia Barber and Amy Smith.

“(Those four) have made a lot of effort in the last couple of years to play a lot of volleyball and made the provincial team last summer for their age group,” added Burgess. “Here is the irony, even the rest of the Grade 11s are entirely ahead of the level where our Grade 11s usually are. We have a couple of Grade 11 girls that, in most years, would be starting for us. Just the depth this year is really, really, exciting for us.”

With Burgess at the helm, South Delta won three consecutive B.C. titles from 2012 to 2014, led by Megan and Nicole McNamara, who went on to enjoy All-American beach volleyball careers at UCLA. However, he is quick to point out those teams featured much more than the talented twins with several players going onto the university level.

“When you look back at the 2014 team, every single girl in the starting six went on to play at a post-secondary school. That’s kind of what we have this year,” he said.

“I really get that sense for the first time in seven or eight years. We have a really strong coaching staff and it just feels like, with that kind of stability, we are not building just a one-year contender. Kevin has a very talented junior group and next year’s team might be one of the best this school has ever seen.”

The Sun Devils currently sit  with a 2-0 record in South Fraser Premier League play with straight set wins over Earl Marriott and Holy Cross.

A busy tournament schedule includes stops at Camosun (Victoria), Seaquam, Semiahmoo and Handsworth over the next month.