Eagles ground Lightning in Valley finals

They may not be going in on a high as the Fraser Valley champions, but Langley Christian coach Jesse Zuidhof believes his team is poised to seize its opportunity.

The Lightning finished second at the Fraser Valley senior boys AA volleyball championships, losing the gold medal match to the host MEI Eagles on Friday night.

Twice during the regular season, the two powerhouse programs met, with each winning once in five sets. MEI finished first in league play, while Langley Christian was second.

In the Fraser Valley final — played in a packed gymnasium, half MEI supporters, the other half Langley Christian fans — the Eagles won in four sets.

“It is a little disappointing,” Zuidhof admitted.

“We are a team capable of being No. 1.”

“The difference (in the final) was we made a lot of errors on our side and (MEI) played very well,” Zuidhof said.

“MEI made a lot less errors and played the best volleyball I have seen them play.”

All season long, the Lightning have been ranked among the top AA schools in the province, shifting up and down between first and fourth spot.

A big turning point, in the coach’s opinion, came in late October when Langley Christian won a tournament hosted by Thompson Rivers University.

In that event, the Lightning defeated the top-ranked AAA team at the time in the semifinals and then the second-ranked squad in the finals.

But despite going into the provincial championships — which run Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 at Kelowna’s UBC Okanagan campus — as the Valley’s second seed, Zuidhof feels his team can win it all.

The Lightning came sixth at last year’s provincial championships and return seven players from that squad.

“I keep telling the guys, great teams show up when they are given great opportunities,” he said.

“A provincial championship is a great opportunity we have worked for and earned. And when it comes down to those big games, that is when great teams and great players show up and I believe this team will show up when it counts.”

Power hitter Tyler Heppell and libero/setter Mitchell Jarvie were named Fraser Valley all-stars.

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