As a team under the radar, the Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils did their utmost to leave an indelible mark at last week's B.C. AAAA senior girls volleyball championships.
Although they were ranked sixth overall entering the 16-team tournament in Port Coquitlam, the squad has had to live in the shadows of No. 3, and formerly No.1-rated Heritage Woods and regularly top-ranked Riverside the past few years.
If Saturday's disappointing 2-1 (25-17, 23-25, 15-11) loss in the bronze game to Earl Marriott sparked its share of tears, a whole season of accomplishments, including a rousing run at the provincials, should invoke positive memories for years to come for the players.
"My team really inspired me. The way they played," said first-time head coach Jon Wiskar.
"There were a lot of tears right after this game. We fought so hard. We got blown out in the first set and it would have been so easy to just go away, but we decided to stick with it. They played so hard, diving all over the place."
Led by the fiery contributions of Team B.C. players Nikki Cornwall and Brittany Aldridge, Best unleashed a strong surge Dr. C Aldr that carried them through a dramatic 3-2 upset of No. 2-rated Kelowna on Friday.
That marathon quarterfinal win (25-21, 28-26, 15-25, 24-26, 25-11) was the kind of performance a team can hang its hat on.
"We played probably close to or as well as we could possibly play. We were making highlight plays, diving, we just never gave up. Just the heart and passion they played with was impressive to watch. It made me want to coach them a few more games," noted Wiskar.
Carrying that momentum over to the next morning proved difficult, with Heritage Woods a supreme obstacle. Despite falling 3-0, Best put a strong push on the court.
"Heritage just didn't give us any errors. They are a real solid team," the Best coach said of the eventual provincial runnerups.
"They didn't give us any points so we had to earn everything, but they made it tough. We lost the first set badly, the last two sets we battled hard but we just couldn't get it."
Adversity, like losing starting middle Tianna DiStasio to a broken ankle suffered three weeks earlier, came into play. But it also provided Gr. 9 Brooke Gillespie with a golden opportunity, noted Wiskar.
"You wouldn't be able to tell that [Gillespie] was a Gr. 9. She was playing against one of the best middles in the province, a six-foot-four girl from Kelowna, and for most of the match she was outplaying her."
It will be a bit of a rebuilding year next season, with the graduation of Ashley da Silva, Katherine Ross, Alessandra Rossi, Sierra Rowat, Jocelyn Wynnyk, Aldridge, Cornwall and DiStasio. But those who return will have this experience to share with the newcomers.
"We really played our best volleyball at the provincials, which is a great thing to see. The thing about my girls was when the pressure was on, that's when they performed their best," added Wiskar.