The Lambrick Park Lions AA senior girls volleyball team could prove be the best high school team in the province at any level, though they’d settle for a AA championship.
This week the Lions are at the AA provincials in Surrey, co-hosted by Pacific Academy and Surrey Christian, Nov. 27 to 30. The Lions won the recent double-A Islands beating Cedar (ranked No. 4 in B.C.) in the final, 25-19, 25-11 and 25-21.
“Cedar was close, they’re a good team but we played well, we had a good day and didn’t give them many options,” said Lions coach Chris Koutougos.
Cedar was, in fact, one of just three teams to beat Lambrick earlier this year. Lambrick’s other losses were against Timberline in the first game of the season and to Neelin from Manitoba in the final of the UBC tournament in September.
The Lions rode the season as B.C.’s top-ranked AA team. Along the way they’ve defeated No. 1-ranked AAA and AAAA teams and won the Vic Lindal Cup crossover city championship for AA, AAA and AAAA teams. Aside from some high caliber weekend tournaments, there is no official crossover tournament for A, AA, AAA and AAAA high schools to meet beyond the city championship.
It wouldn’t strike everyone’s fancy to see the elite four teams from each provincial level play off but it would be another chance to see just how good the Lions are, assuming the make the podium at the AA provincials. The team is stacked with a mix of volleyball specialists and elite athletes who’ve crossed over from baseball.
There is leadership from graduating captain Emilie Wong, who’s been with the senior team since she was in Grade 9 and was part of its silver medal wins at provincials in 2010 and 2011. There is height, particularly on the left side with 6-foot-tall power-hitting sisters Thana Fayad, in Grade 10, and Shimen Fayad, a Grade 12 student with a scholarship waiting at Wichita State. (Both are provincial team players.)
And there are all-around athletes, with Emma Entzminger at libero (she of the national baseball team and who is also one of B.C.’s most dangerous high school strikers when she laces up for the Lions senior girls soccer team) and Jasmine Strandlund, a Grade 11 who is no doubt college-bound for baseball in 2015.
“It’s a highly focused and committed team looking to finish the season strong, a lot of crossover athletes who excel on the court,” Koutougos said.
In particular, it has depth, with a bench full of club volleyball players who would start on most school teams. And it has a chemistry about it, well-earned from hard work and from making the team an inclusive environment.
It’s the culmination of about eight years of building a program, Koutougos said.
“It’s funny because we might not have a team like this again, it’s a rare group of athletes, that’s for sure. And yet it will be a real challenge to win this week, it takes a lot of luck and things have to go your way.”
The Lions have come close. Captain Wong was with the team as a Grade 9 player in 2010 when it finished second in B.C. and was second again in 2011. Last year they fell to the bottom eight at provincials despite winning the Island championship.