As the older half of the Oak Bay Barbers play their final high school volleyball season, there’s a couple of things they’d like to take with them – the Island and provincial titles and anything else they can win along the way.
Seniors Alex Swiatlowski, Ryan Marcellus and Nick Stefanakis have played with Grade 11 students Elion Wong, Leon Young, Lars Bornemann and Matt Hampton, since they were brought together at Oak Bay High four years ago.
As juniors, the group won an Island and provincial championship. But, as a triple-A senior team, they were defeated by G.P. Vanier in last year’s Island finals and were knocked out of the provincials by Earl Marriot (Surrey).
Oak Bay hasn’t won the senior provincial volleyball title since 2006.
So far, it’s motivated the Barbers to an undefeated season as the top-ranked triple-A team in the province. Along the way they redeemed themselves against Earl Marriott in a September tournament, part of a perfect record.
Well, nearly perfect.
“We did lose a set in tournament play,” said Swiatlowski, the team captain.
“We’re pretty happy with the fact we’ve beaten every triple-A team ranked in the top 10 that we’ve played, plus the top double-A ranked team, Langley Christian (twice).”
The Barbers started October by winning a 40-team tournament hosted by University of B.C. Plenty of CIS scouts were there to see the 6-foot-6 height of Swiatlowksi, one of many Barbers likely to play for a university next year.
Coming up, Oak Bay will host the AAA Islands on Nov. 18 and 19, a tournament the Barbers are favoured to win easily.
Until then, coach Al Carmichael has the team working on the little things, Swiatlowski said.
“We’re keeping our eyes on provincials, but game in and game out we’re working on the specifics, like our passing and attacks.”
The Barbers can’t afford to look past their local competition, as they learned during a league game against Claremont earlier this season.
“Claremont has talent and they can play, but we played an error-free set, winning 25-1,” Swiatlowski said.
“I guess we got distracted and in the second set, we still won 25-15, but we made 14 unforced errors. Eliminating errors has been a big difference this year.”
It’s not that the Barbers need a perfect league record to accomplish what they want. They’ve just been playing as a group for so long, they’ve become accustomed to pushing for more. Some of the guys have been together since Grade 8 at Lansdowne middle school, said Barbers’ assistant coach Rick Wutzke, who coached that team to a city and provincial championship.
“Then they came to Oak Bay and got coach Carmichael, who is such a great coach and builds on that success.”