Make some more room on the walls of Earl Marriott Secondary’s gym – for the second straight season, the Mariners are the kings of the B.C. triple-A boys volleyball scene.
On Saturday evening at the Langley Events Centre, the South Surrey squad successfully defended the B.C. title it won in 2018, this time defeating the Kelowna Owls 3-1 (19-25, 25-14, 25-11, 25-14).
The Mariners dropped the first set, before reversing the momentum and controlling play the rest of the way; the third set specifically, saw play lean heavily in the Mariners’ favour, with the South Surrey side leading by double digits more much of the set, before eventually winning by 14.
— Earl Marriott Sec (@EarlMarriottSec) December 1, 2019
Marriott head coach Dale Quiring chalked up the slow start to nerves.
“They were just nervous in the first set and we said, ‘let’s go back to how we practise in the gym… forget the crowed and just come back,” he said.
“They are so patient, so disciplined. When things don’t go our way, they just keep it together, keep strong and focus on the next task that they have to do.”
The key to the team’s turnaround after the opening loss, Quiring said, was adjusting to Kelowna’s tendency to attack the lines
Echoing the post-game statements of his coach, Talon McMullin – who was named tournament MVP – said there was no doubt in his team despite their early struggles against the Owls.
“There was no panic, we had a plan going in, it just took a bit to kick in,” he said.
Marriott, who were ranked No. 1 in provincial triple-A rankings all season long, punched their ticket to Saturday’s final after a semifinal win Friday evening over the No. 7 seeded Okanagan-Mission Huskies. EMS won that matchup 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 27-25).
The second title in as many years continues an impressive run of provincial banners for the Mariners. In addition to last year’s win, this group also went undefeated en route to a junior boys B.C. title in 2017. Two key members of the team – twins Takoda and Talon McMullin – were also starters on Earl Marriott’s senior boys rugby team that won a provincial banner last spring.
“It’s a dream come true,” Talon McMullin said. “It is not supposed to happen like that. We have just gotten lucky with the guys who have come to our school. We have been a tight-knit group since Grade 8, we have all played club (volleyball) together. To cap it all off with another championships… it is just a surreal feeling.”
Saturday’s win – and the fact that they went wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team – was made all the more impressive considering Marriott’s roster is smaller than nearly every other senior boys squad in the province, with just nine players – 10 if you include Grade 9 Andrew Armstrong, who was called up to add bench depth last weekend at provincials. By comparison, Kelowna had 14 available players Saturday.
Quiring was quick to credit his team’s dedication – as well as the work of his physiotherapist wife/assistant coach Shelley – for keeping the small squad healthy and energized all the way through the final game.
“We work hard in hard in practice and then they just bring it on the court. When we are dialed and locked in, we are a hard team to beat,” he said.
In addition to Talon’s MVP award, Takoda McMullin was named a first-team all-star, while fellow Mariner Josh Quiring was named to the second team.
Other Surrey teams to compete at the triple-A tournament included Fraser Heights, who placed 10th, Fleetwood Park, who were 15, and Semiahmoo, 18th.
In the quad-A senior girls tournament – held concurrently with the boys tournament – Cloverdale’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers finished second, losing in Saturday’s championship game to Kelowna.
The Semiahmoo Totems were also in the mix, but were upset by lower-seeded Handsworth in quarter-final action Friday night. Earlier Friday, in the round of 16, Semiahmoo defeated Elgin Park. Elgin began the day with a win over North Peace.
Tweedsmuir’s Bailey Dorohoy was named to the tournament’s first all-star team, while Alysha Goundrey (Tweedsmuir) and Tara Wallack (Semiahmoo) were named to the second team.