Quesnel Junior School’s new home on Maple Drive might just be providing their athletes with a spot of luck and a drive to win.
Students have had excellent cross-country running and swimming seasons so far and their Grade 8 volleyball program is following their lead by fielding three top-tier teams this year.
Lead by veteran coaches, Cory Hart and Amarjit Singh Sull, who are affectionately known as “Hart and Sull”, Team Gold, Team Blue and Team Red have had considerable success in Northern B.C.
“We started with 37 girls registered and within two weeks we had 25 girls that remained and trained,” says Sull. “We do not turn away students at QJS from sports, nor do we cut at the Grade 8 level at QJS; it is all about development.”
Sull says the girls started off practising two to three times a week, but as their skills began to improve, they became eager to work harder.
“We had students that wanted to grow, so the kids insisted they practice more,” he says. “So [once a week] at 6:45 a.m. we would open the gym to maximize gym time, minimize distractions and practise volleyball.”
He adds some parents brought their kids in all the way from Parkland, so they could run practices until the bell rang.
“If that wasn’t enough, we had a few weekend practices by request from kids who wanted to play,” he says. “These kids are committed and great ambassadors of the school and district. The level of passion and dedication to sport and academics is amazing.”
Their commitment showed on the court throughout the season.
The teams competed in five tournaments, including the zones, and were able to leave each of them with medals.
Sull says one of the more memorable weekends was the 12-team Kelly Road Extravaganza Tournament in October, in Prince George.
“Team Gold went undefeated and won Pool A, while Team Blue went undefeated and won Pool B,” he says.
They also played at the Duchess Park Tournament, College Heights Tournament, Prince George Secondary School Tournament and the zone championships, which were held at D.P. Todd.
According to Sull, Team Red showed their colours at the zones.
“They played sensational,” he says. “They quickly became known as the most fun and inspirational team at the tournament.
“The team would start slow and eventually dismantle their opponents with their sheer confidence and energy.
“Although they went down 9-0 a few times at the beginning of games, they would work together, play as a team and persevere.”
Sull says their strong serving and high energy led to them finishing in a tie for fifth place in the tournament.
The Gold and Blue Teams met in the zone semi-finals for a great showdown between two squads who know each other well.
“The game was tight and both squads played with passion, enthusiasm and emotion,” says Sull. “They were both playing three-touch volleyball and working systems to keep each other continuously moving.”
Team Gold ended up squeaking out the victory by scores of 25-22 and 27-25.
Fortunately, Team Blue had one more game with which to prove their heart, and they used it to clinch a bronze against Prince George Secondary School.
“They played a solid offensive game in the first set,” Sull says. “Fast attacks kept PGSS moving and making mistakes, allowing us to take the set 25-13.
“The second set had QJS Blue make a few mistakes in their end, which allowed PGSS to tie the game at 23-23.
“However, two key back-to-back defensive blocks sealed the victory 25-23 for Blue, winning them the bronze.”
With one piece of hardware for their trophy cabinet back on Maple Drive, the school set its sights on another.
Team Gold faced off against the home squad, D.P. Todd, for all the marbles.
“The first set had Quesnel playing catch-up,” says Sull. “They were down 12-6 and had to adjust their defensive positioning and mental game.
“We were continually caught off guard as D.P. Todd had slowed the pace, directing every second hit to the middle of the court.”
A defensive strategy shift allowed Team Gold to storm back, and they managed to win the set 25-21.
With the wind in their sails, the squad calmed down and began picking apart their opponent.
“D.P. Todd could not counter the offense of QJS,” Sull says, “and then two sensational defensive plays turned the game in our favour.”
Their work in the gym throughout the season paid off, and they won the second set by a score of 25-17, winning a gold medal in the process.
Both medals were a first for Grade 8 Girls volleyball in Quesnel, which the coaches, team and entire support system can be very proud of.