Emilie Wong can rest easy as she looks back at her volleyball career knowing her Lambrick Park Lions are finally B.C. champs.
The captain and fourth-year Lion helped her team defeat the Langley Fundamental Titans in the Senior Girls AA Volleyball Provincials final in Surrey on Saturday.
Wong is the longest serving player, having been with the team since her Grade 9 year. She was on the court when the Lions lost in the provincial AA final in 2010 and 2011.
“My first gold. It feels unreal,” Wong said. “I still can’t get over how the banner is in my school right now. I could have never imagined when I was in Grade 9 that I would get this, it still feels weird.”
Wong is as driven academically as she is on the court and this may be the end of volleyball career. She will likely focus on a university engineering program next year.
“I’m not sure if I’ll play again so this is a great way to go out. Even if we didn’t win I would have been so happy with the team, because we had an incredible season, even before provincials, I’m so proud of them.”
Going into the final the Lions hadn’t lost a set in the tournament or in any match over the last six weeks, including the Island championships. The Lions won the first set handily 25-11, which drew a push-back from the Titans, who won the second set 25-20.
The rest of the match was a close one as the Lions eked out the next two sets 28-26 and 25-23.
“The final was an incredible match, the last three sets were so close,” said Lambrick coach Chris Koutougos. “The rallies were so long, it was such a display of athleticism on both sides.”
The Lions season has been one for the history books, yet when they came up against the Titans in the final, it was only natural they were a bit worried to see three girls towering at the net, two of them at least 6-foot-3. The Lions do have some height, with 6-foot-1 Shimen Fayad (Grade 12) and her younger sister, 6-foot Thana. Beyond the Fayads, however, the Lions next tallest players are 5-foot-7.
Shimen was named the AA tournament MVP, another line on her résumé as she heads to the NCAA’s Wichita State next year.
“We were scrappy and found ways to score points,” Koutougos said. “When we lost (that set) it put the pressure on: Langley woke up and started playing amazing volleyball and put us in trouble.”
But the Lions kept their cool and experience prevailed.
“We’d been to provincial finals previously and all the girls trusted each other,” Wong said. “We knew what we could do and knew what to expect.”
The Lions beat Surrey Christian in the semifinal 25-16, 25-13 and 27-25, after beating hard-hitting York House and Smithers in the playoffs, and sweeping all six sets in the all-saints round robin pool of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas More and St. Patrick.
“Our main goal was to have fun, take care of each other and see what we could do, and the banner is a cherry on top,” Wong said.
Girls volleyball is still growing in Greater Victoria and this championship will be special for the volleyball community, Koutougos said.
No senior girls team from Victoria had won a provincial title in over 10 years and there hasn’t been a AA team to win it since Lambrick did it in 1992, Koutougos added.
“At our first practice of the season we wrote the date and time of the final, Nov. 30, 6:30 p.m., on the whiteboard,” explained the coach.
“However, when we sat down to set goals for the season, the girls identified that our primary goal was to honour and respect each other along the way. Their goal was ‘to take care of each other’ and ‘believe in the process,’ and the result will take care of itself.
“When we finished the season … the girls identified the banner as a symbol for what they’ve worked for all season.”