The South Delta Sun Devils will enter the post-season back on top of the provinicial AAAA girls volleyball rankings thanks to a wild and memorable Saturday in Port Coquitlam.
The Sun Devils closed out tournament play by capturing the prestigious 21st annual Coquitlam RCMP Red Serge Classic at Riverside Secondary. The 10-team event was loaded with ranked teams and culminated with No. 2 South Delta spoiling the hometown victory party with a straight set win over the top ranked Rapids.
The result was the same as when the two teams met in the UBC tournament final back in September but Riverside took over the No. 1 ranking two weeks ago thanks to its win at Handsworth, a tournament the Sun Devils were not apart of, capturing an event at Semiahmoo instead.
The pollsters looked to be correct with the flip of teams when the Rapids rolled to an easy 25-11, 25-14 win over South Delta to close out pool play on Saturday morning. The Sun Devils put that loss behind them to produced three straight wins in the playoff round, capping a five match marathon day with a 30-28, 25-22 triumph over Riverside in the championship game.
Along the way, South Delta needed three sets to defeat No. 4 Handsworth in the quarter-finals (25-22, 23-25, 15-11) and No. 7 Okanagan Mission (17-25, 25-20, 15-13) in the semis.
“I kind of think it worked for us to be honest,” said SDSS head coach Dan Burgess. “By the time we played Riverside we already knew we were going to be second in our pool for sure, if not first. We didn’t tell the girls to take it easy but you definitely got the sense they were taking their foot off the gas a little bit.
“We lost so badly in the morning round. They must have come into the final thinking we can do this in our home gym. They have been beating my girls since Grade 8. In club and in school. That’s why (the girls) were so ecstatic when they beat them at UBC earlier this season. I really feel like, for better or for worse, we just kind of rope-a-doped them. You could feel the air get sucked out of the gymnasium when we were matching them point for point.”
South Delta needed to dig deep to get past Okanagan Mission after setter Lauren Wight was sidelined with an injury and standout middle Rachel Rosser also spent some time on the bench. Down a set, Burgess was even thinking his girls were headed for the third place game when they roared back, led by the leadership of Grade 12 twins Jane and Kate McDonald.
“I told them last night in an email, your defining feature is becoming your mental toughness. This a team that never dwells on mistakes. Just the mental toughness of this team to not really feel pressure is their calling card now,” Burgess continued.
“Jane and Kate were born to lead. We have a whole bunch of very talented Grade 11s but they don’t have that leadership pedigree yet and that’s what Jane and Kate just deliver in spades. They bring the leadership this team needs to succeed.”
It was a pair of those Grade 11 standouts that took home individual honours with middle Mya Cressy earning MVP honours for her superb play throughout the weekend and Esther Lim receiving the Libero award for her terrific defensive work.
The South Fraser AAAA Championships take place next week with the title game set for Nov. 17 at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Cloverdale.