Good things come to those who wait.
Nowhere has that turn-of-phrase proven to be more accurate than at Elgin Park Secondary, where the school’s senior boys volleyball team recently won its first tournament in 15 years, after a first-place finish at a Trinity Western University-hosted showdown a few weeks ago.
In the championship game, the Elgin Park Orcas defeated Abbotsford’s M.E.I., after beating Langley Christian in the semifinals. Along the way, Elgin also defeated Victoria’s Pacific Christian – who were B.C. champions at the junior level, which was the last time many of the now-senior players squared off against one another. Those three teams are ranked first through third, respectively, at the double-A level.
“It had been a long, long time, so that was pretty cool,” said Elgin Park head coach Matt Ekholm, who is a former volleyball player at the South Surrey school.
“I think when I was a senior at Elgin in 2013, that was the closest we’d come to having a good team – we had a couple top-four finishes at some tournaments. So it had been awhile.”
The victory further solidified the Orcas’ spot near the top of the triple-A B.C. senior boys rankings – the team is ranked No. 2, behind the top-ranked Kelowna Owls and one spot ahead of the No. 3 Fraser Heights Firehawks, also of Surrey.
Though the Orcas are a triple-A team, they passed on an opportunity to play a triple-A event at UBC in order to play in TWU’s double-A tournament, because as Ekholm explained, “double-A is usually stronger at the top.”
“Teams like Langley Christian, M.E..I. and Abby Christian – they’re always very strong, so I think a lot of people were surprised that we won. Someone told me that it was the first time in about 15 years that a non-Christian school had won the tournament,” Ekholm said.
“I think M.E.I. and Langley Christian were considered the favourites, so it was a bit of shocker for everyone that we were able to walk in there and do that.”
Though the province’s volleyball teams – as well as every other indoor sport – have been sidelined for much of the last year and a half due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ekholm said the lack of games may have been a blessing in disguise for his group, because the added practice time – when practices were allowed – has benefited many of his players, including a core group of Grade 12s led by setter Nick Johnson, middle Kendall Homenick, as well as libero Gabrielle Ferreira.
Ferreira, Ekholm pointed out, “has really come into his own.”
“He’s a great player and the emotional engine of the team,” he added.
Johnson and Homenick, meanwhile, are “two of the most highly recruited players in the province.”
Ekholm, along with fellow Elgin Park coach Mike Jamieson – who this year coaches the school’s Grade 9 and 10 boys teams – coached the current crop of seniors when they were in Grade 10.
“When they were (juniors), they were good players but they weren’t what they are now,” Ekholm explained.
“And that’s mostly because they put in the work when nobody was able to play. They really put their nose to the grindstone and worked hard to emerge as these leaders on our team right now.
“It was my challenge as a coach to keep these guys invested, so we’d talk almost every day about how, eventually, you’re going to get back out there and you’ll have one year left (of high school volleyball). So whoever is putting in the work now, those are the people who will come out on top in the end.”