For the first time in nearly 15 years, a sports team from Lake Cowichan School is going to a provincial championship.
With a second-place finish at the single-A senior girls volleyball Island tournament in Chemainus last weekend, the Lakers booked themselves a ticket to the B.C. championships in Fernie next week.
No one at the school on Monday could confirm exactly when the last time was that a Lakers team had qualified for provincials, but the general consensus guess was that it had been 13 or 14 years.
“It’s been a long road for some of them,” said Brent Pinnell, the LCS athletic director and also the manager and assistant coach of the girls volleyball team. “They’re eager to play.”
The Lakers were beaten in the Island final by Nanaimo Christian, a juggernaut team that went into the tournament ranked first on the Island.
“They were the only team we lost to the whole tournament,” Pinnell pointed out. “They went undefeated. They’re a very good team.”
The Lake Cowichan team consists of just seven girls, many of whom also play club volleyball either in South Cowichan or Victoria, where three of them won gold at the Western Nationals this past summer. The Lakers made impressive progress this season, as demonstrated by their results over the three tournaments they’ve played. They went from finishing eighth out of 16 at their first event to a third place finish — competing against much larger schools at both — and finally second at Islands.
Pinnell coached some of the same players on the junior girls team last year, a squad that finished eighth on the Island out of schools of all sizes as junior teams aren’t divided into brackets based on population. The senior girls started this year ranked eighth in the province, and although that ranking dropped, they were always a contender for a berth at provincials.
“We were rated second on the Island, so there was a possibility there,” Pinnell said. “But you never know what you’re gonna get once you get there.”
One of the Lakers’ seven players came down with strep throat before Islands, and although she played some, the team had to come up with a new system that the girls could learn in a short time.
“All the other girls stepped up,” Pinnell said.
The team is coached by Adrian Achurch and includes players Olivia Hansen, Amber Eddy, Kendall Bergstrom, Gillian Longbottom, Megan McKechnie, Kali Mullin and Annabella Jacubowski. Bergstrom and Mullin were all-stars at the Island tournament.
Pinnell also expressed his graditude for the support the team and the athletic program as a whole get from principal Jaime Doyle and vice principal Delyth Morgan.
Needless to say, Pinnell is thrilled to see an LCS team qualify for the B.C. tournament.
“I’ve been the athletic director for four years, and I’ve never had the opportunity to say we’ve got a team going to provincials,” he said. “The small town needs it, and the school needs it because of the things we’ve been through the last few years.”
It’s not a cheap trip for the players to get to Fernie. Anyone interested in helping the Lakers get to provincials should contact the school.