Remember the Titans
After suffering a heartbreaking loss in the Fraser Valley championships, Langley Fundamental Titans coach Jan Ellison admitted her team was devastated.
The week before, the Titans lost in five sets to the MEI Eagles in the Fraser Valley final, the team’s first defeat all season.
“We really had to rally (after that loss),” Ellison said.
“We were so depressed. There were tears, because we knew it was ours (to win).”
With just one day between the end of the Fraser Valleys and the start of the provincial championships — which were held at Abbotsford’s MEI Middle and Secondary schools — there was little time to dwell on the defeat.
“We went in here and started fresh,” Ellison said. “We had to prove ourselves; we had to prove the Fraser Valleys were ours as well.”
Seeded third at the 20-team provincial championships, the Titans went 4-0 to win their pool.
They then won their first two playoff games to advance to the semifinals in a rematch of the Fraser Valley final against MEI.
Langley Fundamental won 2-1 against the second-ranked Eagles setting up a shot at gold against the top-ranked Penticton Lakers.
The Lakers boasted a tall trio — one player was six-foot-seven while another two were six-foot-five — who posed a tough match-up for the Titans.
But Langley Fundamental came through, winning the gold in four sets.
“They played their hearts out, it was unbelievable,” Ellison said.
“We just didn’t make any errors.”
The coach called her two middles, Mason Kinna and Brayden Griffiths, unsung heroes for the job they did against the Lakers big three, despite the considerable size disadvantage they faced.
Miles Clark/Vancouver Sports Pictures
Langley Fundamental Titans' Denham O'Reilly (left) celebrates with Michael Hsu (#11) during his team's victory over Penticton in the gold medal game at the junior boys provincial volleyball championships held at MEI.
Michael Hsu earned most valuable player honours as Penticton could not block his kills.
His younger brother Stephen Hsu won the tournament’s top libero award, hitting the floor to clean up any Penticton kills which did elude his teammates’ blocks.
Carson Heppell also came up with some big hits for the Titans.
Another key for the Titans was the fact they boasted two of the tournament’s top setters — Tristan Loewen was a first-team all-star while Denham O’Reilly was a second-teamer.
The advantage of having two highly-skilled players at that position meant the Titans had multiple options when it came to set up their attack.
“When the first guy has to dig up the ball, I have got my second guy to step in so we make anything into a good kill (opportunity),” Ellison said.
Langley Fundamental finished the season at 37-1 and more importantly, captured the school’s first provincial title.
“It feels amazing,” said Michael Hsu about the fact they are the first Titans team to win a B.C. championship.
As for their defeat in the Fraser Valley finals, Hsu said the team used it as motivation.
“We knew we could win,” he said. “We just worked as a team, tried our best and worked really hard.”
Miles Clark/Vancouver Sports Pictures
Langley Fundamental's Michael Hsu was named most valuable player at the B.C. junior boys volleyball championships.
The success is not surprising.
“I knew we had an awesome team (at the start of the year),” Ellison said.
“I knew that it would be tough to win but it was doable with the calibre and the heart these guys have.”
An added bonus at provincials was that Ellison was able to give her bench significant playing time throughout the three days and they responded by not dropping a set.
Langley Christian was also in attendance at the provincial championships, with the Lightning placing fifth overall.
Langley Christian’s Brayden Heppell was named to the tournament all-star team.