They haven’t made it easy on themselves, despite being gracious hosts.
The Riverside Rapids are facing a veritable who’s who of AAAA senior girls volleyball in B.C. as their annual Red Serge Classic kicks off Friday (3:30 p.m.) in PoCo.
The No. 7-ranked Rapids have slotted themselves in Pool A, where the mix includes No. 1 South Delta, No. 2 South Kamloops and No. 3 Handsworth.
While it could easily go south with such a list, Riverside coach Bryan Gee says this season is all about facing tough tests head-on, as they did with their annual foray to the Durango Classic in Las Vegas to start the school year.
“Boy, was that an experience,” recalled Gee, who is overseeing a squad with just two Grade 12s and 11 Gr. 11s. “We played the No. 5-ranked team in the U.S.... Every team we played could be a top-five team at any level in B.C.”
That experience set the table for a steep learning curve — although Gee points out that while his lineup features a lot of new faces, they've all earned their spots. As the playoffs approach, each player has progressed and the team has gelled well, he noted.
In October, they placed fifth at the Camosun Invitational, losing to Crofton House. They also finished third at Handsworth's tourney, with No. 4 Earl Marriott edging them in the semifinals.
This year’s roster is based on that Grade 11 core, featuring provincial team members setter Hayley Menard and outside hitters Miranda Dinwoodie and Taryn Toscani. Team captains are rightside Christine Anderson, Menard and senior Chloe Haner.
They've cruised through the Fraser Valley North league undefeated, and posted a 24-2 record against B.C. rivals prior to this week.
"What we're learning is just the desire to compete every single rally, from start to finish," said Gee. "It's something they are exposed to at this level, and in the club level, and it comes with experience."
Although youthful and coming off an eighth-place result at last year’s B.C.s, the Rapids continually set sights high — no matter the composition of the roster. That's primarily because the school program has thrived due to the strong local club scene — Riverside coaches Alym Makhani and Gee are both with the Coquitlam Ducks program.
“Being a young team our goal is to do as well as we can, but over the next three years the cycle should be where we are young and strong,” he noted. “Our juniors are ranked No. 2 in the province, and [the senior team] is learning how to deal with adverse situations. That’s what the Red Serge is all about.”
The two-day event begins at 3:30 p.m. at Riverside, with the host playing No. 5-rated Lord Tweedsmuir. The other local team, Pinetree, kicks off the proceedings against No. 4-ranked Earl Marriott at 4:45 p.m. Riverside closes out the opening day in a tilt against South Delta.
Action picks up Saturday at 9 a.m., with Pinetree facing previously ranked Penticton.The tourney final is slated for 5:45 p.m.
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