At the start of the Grade 8 girls district championship final, coach Cari Gonzalez admits her team was scared.
Gonzalez’ Langley Christian squad — at 8-0 and the top seed for the district playoffs — was up against the Langley Fundamental Titans (6-2, third) on Tuesday at the Langley Events Centre.
The Titans boasted a pair of players who posed matchup problems for the Lightning.
The Titans blew away the Lightning in the opening set, taking it by a 25-11 score.
“In the first game, our girls were scared,” Gonzalez admitted. “We had to not be intimidated (by them).
“When they realized that they were only two out of six players, they realized they could beat them.”
The Lightning won the second set, 25-22 but the Titans took a 2-1 lead thanks to a 25-18 win. With their backs against the wall, Langley Christian took the fourth set 25-18 and then outlasted the Titans in the fifth and deciding set, 18-16.
“The girls worked really hard to get to this point,” Gonzalez said.
“Their skills were coming along nicely, but for the past couple of weeks, their mental game — staying mentally tough while playing and not being discouraged — was really lacking.
“So we really worked on this in practice and they pulled through for the final game.”
And in the final, the Lightning pulled it all together, staying focused, communicating and cutting down on unforced errors.
She also credited the play of setter Maya Vanderhoek — who kept the team focused and positive, while proving clutch at the service line — and Ali Wergeland — who was strong all-around, with big kills, huge blocks and consistent serving — as big reasons for the team’s success.
Chantelle Gouthro and Amy Antoniak also drew the coach’s praise.
The victory advances the Lightning to the Fraser Valley championships, which will be held at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary (Nov. 25/26).
The Titans face a wild-card game tomorrow (Wednesday) in hopes of qualifying for the tournament.