It took a little longer than usual, but the Moscrop Panthers drove home their point on how it takes focus to put talent in perspective.
By nailing down the Burnaby-New West senior boys volleyball league banner Wednesday with a 3-1 decision over a gritty Burnaby Central Wildcats crew, Moscrop was also reminded how hard the road is going forward.
When the Wildcats clawed out a 25-22 win in the first set – only the third set the undefeated Panthers have surrendered over 10 league games this year – it was a product of some opportunistic work by the underdogs and an unusually high complement of forced errors.
The Panthers hit the refresh button for the second set, which saw a tooth-and-nail battle where both teams exhibited stellar defence and some power smashes before Moscrop prevailed 25-17.
They’d convert that momentum with victories of 25-17 and 25-14 to claim the league banner.
“For the first set, we just had a lot of unforced errors, 16 I think, and it’s really hard to win a game with that many errors,” coach Jerry Yan said. “Afterwards we started well, Marcus (Wong) and Martin (Prinsloo) gave us a lot of aces which was good.”
It did seem that the route to a win was like the road that connects the two secondary schools – a bit windy and with its share of bottlenecks.
Moscrop, at 6-0 and having dropped just two sets all season – to Burnaby North last month – was looking to put a bold punctuation mark to its record heading to next week’s Lower Mainlands.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, had earned a solid 4-2 second-place finish while netting provincial respect with a No. 14 ranking.
Prinsloo provided a key point in the second set, getting a second chance to lay down a point after Central’s Jan Acevedo returned a determined smash. Up by 11 points, Moscrop watched as the Wildcats crept to within seven before finishing it on Ted Graveson’s spike to the back court.
In the third set, Wong wielded the momentum with some determined shots, including a drive to the back row that made it 23-13. He would cap the match from the left side, sending a shot that the defence could only deflect up into the ceiling to end the game.
“Central played a real good game,” remarked Graveson. “I think they came to take it to us pretty well and we just came out the winner.”
“In the first set we were just a little tense, had troubles on the service line but we brought it back and played our game, focused on our side.”
Central’s coach said, while the opening set win was sweet, his squad couldn’t contain the No. 4-rated Panthers over four sets.
“We came in knowing it was going to be a tough match – most important I wanted the boys to have some fun. I think we did. They were fighting, but unfortunately, Moscrop is a tough team, they have some big hitters, and they outplayed us a little bit.”
Yan, a Moscrop alumnus, said if the players don’t starter stronger the next stage won’t be as forgiving.
“I think today, even though we still got the win, it was really sloppy. Defensively, servicing wise, we weren’t playing our best,” he said. “I think offensively as well the guys on the outside weren’t clicking. Next week against tougher teams, bigger teams that play a strong pass game, for sure we need to be offensively a little smarter, and limiting our unforced errors.”
On the plus side, the Panthers realize they can play better.
“It’s just trusting ourselves, trusting our own system,” noted Graveson. “We’ve put in all the work and we know we have what it takes, but it’s just trusting ourselves and putting it together every point. And being a team.”
Both squads, along with No. 3 finisher Burnaby South, now advance to next week’s Lower Mainlands, which Moscrop will co-host.
Earning all-star awards were Moscrop’s Michael Xu and Prinsloo, Burnaby Central’s William Jin and Herman Zhang, Burnaby South’s Shan Lumase and Burnaby North’s Justin Quan.