The Magee Lions will compete at the senior boys volleyball Provincials for the first time in school history, a new height for a 100-year-old school with a program that formed just 15 years ago.
With the promise of fans following the team to Kelowna Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 for the B.C. championship, the un-ranked Lions have set themselves the goal of finishing in the top 10 in the province.
“We have to play really well,” said coach Steve Hall. “That would be a very successful Provincials for us.
Hall built the Magee volleyball program with Norman Jay. Ranked 15th in the province this season, Magee once earned an honourable mention.
“We’ve had some good teams over the years,” said Hall, “but this is the first time the team has made that last step of actually getting to Provincials, which is a big accomplishment.”
The experienced Lions count 10 Grade 12 student-athletes, most who came together to play five years ago in their first year of high school. They practise almost every day, said Hall, pass-set-bumping before class and after school.
Last year Magee was knocked out of the city playoffs in the quarterfinal, losing 3-1 to the eventual Lower Mainland champions from Van Tech. This year they competed for the city crown, but lost in three very close, highly competitive sets to Eric Hamber. The Lions finished fourth at Lower Mainlands, winning the last berth to Provincials.
Team captain Kashtin De Souza is driven to see the team succeed. The confident six-foot-one, left-handed power hitter played for Team B.C. this summer and considers himself an essential force for Magee’s success.
“I think we really need to gel as a team and it really take a lot of me to get the guys inspired,” he said, taking on the challenge of leading the team to the winner’s side of the draw. “I know I’m fit for the job but I have to be a leader and really inspire and motivate these guys to be the best they can be. I think it’s definitely possible […] A top-10 finish would just be perfect.”
In addition to De Souza, the Lions will rely on middle-blocker Kavan Mann, libero Mark Nguyen who seems unbeatable when he’s on, and a roster of versatile, athletic players.
The team at the West Side school, said coach Jay, benefits from “really dedicated, diverse, skilled, athletic, friendly, boys.”
They also have exceptional fans — and a furry mascot with a mane.
“They kind of make our season what it is,” said Mann. “Every time we have a home game or even away games, they always come and the Magee crowd is always the biggest, I’ve noticed.”
Hosting Hamber in the city final two weeks ago, the court war spilled over to the stands where one hundred fans from each school went hoarse out-chanting each other.
“I have actually have heard word about people coming all the way to Kelowna and supporting us,” said Mann. “Hopefully they’ll be able to do that.”
Both Jay and Hall will take a break from coaching next year to spend time with their young, growing families.
Until they return, they leave a strong foundation at Magee that goes beyond an inaugural trip to Provincials. Mann is at least one student who is thinking about returning to build on what he hopes is an emerging legacy.
“Hopefully we can even come back and coach or something like that,” said Mann, who graduates this year after five years with the same players and coaches.
“Being coached by the same people for five years, you really gain bonds over the years. They really make it personal and special and they’re really like friends to us than superiors or coaches.”