Last year, the Langley Christian Lightning nearly had a dream season, winning their first 56 games.
Unfortunately for the senior girls volleyball team, their 57th game was a defeat at the worst possible time: in the B.C. provincial AA championship game.
“It was heartbreaking, probably the toughest loss I have ever experienced,” admitted Lightning coach Lisa Bontkes. “It was pretty devastating for our team.”
This year’s road to the provincial championships was not as smooth.
For one thing, Langley Christian did not go in on a lengthy winning streak.
But when the dust had settled, the Lightning defeated the St. Thomas More Knights 3-0 to capture the gold medal on Saturday at the provincial championships in Vanderhoof.
Bontkes said no mention was made of last year’s disappointment in the run up to this season’s gold medal.
“We didn’t bring up last year, we needed to let that go and start fresh,” Bontkes said. “It didn’t need to be brought up, they just wanted it.”
The coach said her team was mentally ready for the challenges of making a run to the gold. It also helped that they didn’t have the pressure and target of being an overwhelming favourite.
“We were mentally prepared for provincials and it definitely makes it easier when you are not the favourite going in as No. 1,” she said. “When you go in as No. 1, everyone is gunning for you.”
In fact, the Lightning weren’t even one of the top two seeds from their own zone after finishing behind both the MEI Eagles and Pacific Academy Breakers at the Fraser Valley championships.
After Langley Christian went 3-0 to win their pool, the Lightning beat Charles Hays in the round of 16 and Notre Dame in the quarter-finals.
In the semifinals, they faced Pacific Academy, in what Bontkes said was her team’s stiffest test at provincials.
Langley Christian won 3-1, after scoring the final seven points in the fourth set, when they trailed 23-18.
“This is just an amazing, kind group of girls so it just made it extra special to win with them,” Bontkes gushed.
“The furthest you can go in high school sports is to win a banner for your school (so) they were pretty pumped.”
Making the banner even more special was the fact the Langley Christian senior boys also won gold on Saturday at their provincial championship tournament.
The school held a special assembly for the two teams on Monday morning.
The Lightning were led by left-side hitter Savannah Caterino-Leger, who was named most valuable player.
Janae Bruinsma, another left-side hitter, was a first team all-star and Jenna Van Roekel, a middle, was a second team all-star. And Corina Beimers was named the tournament’s top libero.
Three other Langley high school teams were also in action over the weekend at their respective provincial volleyball championships.
The Credo Christian Kodiaks placed sixth at the BC Single A senior girls championships in Fernie.
The Kodiaks’ Rebekkah Allison was named a second team-star.
And at the AAA senior girls championships in Vancouver, the Langley Saints placed ninth overall.
And closer to home at the Langley Events Centre, the Langley Fundamental Titans also placed ninth in the senior boys AA championships.