The West Coast’s high school volleyball season finished strong, but with four key players headed towards graduation, reinforcements are needed to keep the spike alive.
Ucluelet Secondary School’s senior boys volleyball team headed to the Single-A Provincial Championships for just the second time in school history in November and battled their way to a solid ninth place finish, scoring some sweet revenge against rival Duncan Christian along the way.
Head coach Bryan Grigg attributed the successful season and provincial run to his team’s hard work and dedication.
“These boys are committed and dedicated. They would show up,” he said. “Because of that, we were able to get to where we were this year. We earned our way into ninth place and, a couple of bounces different ways, we could have been a lot higher too.”
The provincials were hosted in Kamloops and kicked off with teams split into two round-robin pools and USS found themselves in a group that ultimately boasted the tournament’s top three teams.
They finished fifth in their pool, which forced them into a consolation bracket to battle for ninth to 12th place and they fought their way to one final showdown against rivals Duncan Christian in the bracket’s finale.
“The boys played fantastic. They played within the system, they didn’t get tight, they didn’t get nervous. They just continued to do what they needed to do and the points just kept tallying up,” Grigg said. “We had a couple guys really step up and all eight guys on the team contributed.”
He said the final matchup against Duncan Christian was hard fought, with USS winning the last game 32-30. Volleyball games are set up as a race to 25 points, with the first team to reach that threshold being declared the winner. Play continues though until one team wins by two points, which led to USS and Duncan Christian’s high scoring affair.
“It was an absolute marathon game,” Grigg said adding roughly 300 people were in the stands to watch the two Vancouver Island teams.
“Duncan Christian played fantastic. We played fantastic. It was a really nice showcase of what Island volleyball is.”
He said USS benefitted from clutch personal performances, including Jared Lucas, who stepped in and “did a fabulous job,” when star player Will Fortune went down with a rolled ankle partway through the match.
“Our setter Diego Corlazzoli really turned into a workhorse. Our power hitter Matteo Ludlow just went into beast mode. He just continually played above his game and really earned a lot of points for us. Offensively, he killed. He really kept the Duncan Christian team defence on their heels.”
He added that while the boys didn’t get into the championship round, they were thrilled to top the Duncan Christian team that bested them in the Island Championships.
“We went out of that tournament on a high. I’m extremely proud of the way the boys played. They really showed that they were meant to be there,” he said.
“In the end, we took a little bit of revenge on Duncan Christian. They’re a very classy team. They are friends of ours, but they beat us and relegated us to second on the Island. In the provincials, we took ninth place and they finished 10th.”
The team will look for new faces next season as four of its eight players are set to graduate. Grigg said he’s confident success will continue with four strong players returning, including Fortune, Corlazzoli and Rowan Mayes, who scored the teams final two points in the pressure-filled final match.
“The future is bright, but we need to get more boys out. Volleyball is a real team sport, so it depends on how the whole team gets along and how we work together as a team, as a unit,” he said. “We have a couple of really bright talents coming through, but there needs to be a supporting cast. It’s a whole team effort to get us to where we want to be, like the provincials.”