Walnut Grove Gators members practiced before this week's Big Kahuna provincial tournament in Langley.

Big Kahuna up for grabs at Langley Events Centre

Langley volleyball players are gearing up for the big tourney.

Three Langley teams are gearing up for this year’s Big Kahuna BC Volleyball Championships, starting this week at the Langley Events Centre.

Senior boys teams from Langley Fundamental, Langley Christian, and Walnut Grove are all highly ranked.

Competing at AAA level, Walnut Grove is top-seeded with Kelowna, Vancouver Tech, and Semiahmoo.

“That’ll be a power pool,” said Gary Lutes, the coach for Walnut Grove’s senior boys.

They’ll be heading into the tourney with a relatively small team – just 10 players.

But what they lack in numbers, they make up for in height – a number of players top six feet – and experience. The team is well-supplied with Grade 12 students.

“It’s a good group of guys, and we’ve been together three years,” Lutes said.

Their maturity will be a benefit when the games begin, said the coach.

“Competition always is a true test of who you are,” he said.

At the highly competitive AA level, Langley Christian and Langley Fundamental could find themselves facing off.

“They’re definitely one of our rivals,” said Langley Christian coach Carol Hofer.

But virtually every Fraser Valley team involved in the championships has a history – over the course of the season, they’ve all both lost and won to one another at least once, Hofer said.

Another pool rival, Abbotsford’s MEI, won the last provincial title.

“My team’s feeling ready,” Hofer said.

Langley Christian will be relying on a strong attack for much of their tournament play.

“I think we’re one of the toughest serving teams in the province,” said Hofer.

There are also four or five effective attackers on the team, she said.

That’s despite the team having more Grade 11 students than Grade 12s. There are three Grade 11 starters this year, and just five players getting ready to graduate.

One of their strengths is that the players don’t just practice and compete at the school level.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who play club volleyball,” Hofer said.

In the days leading up to the tournament, Langley Christian was mixing practice with rest.

“We want to be fresh going into it,” Hofer said.

The multi-day competition will be about more than just who has the skill, it will be about “who still has gas in the tank come Friday and Saturday,” Hofer said.

The powerful rivalry among the Fraser Valley teams was also on the mind of Langley Fundamental coach Dan Johnson.

“We’ve been sort of in a dogfight with all the Fraser Valley teams all year,” he said. “We like our prospects, though.”

Langley Fundamental has some strong players, but has also suffered from losing one of those to an injury.

Max Heppell twisted an ankle earlier this season and has been on the bench for six weeks.

“He’s just coming back now,” said Johnson.

The team, which includes six Grade 12 students, just made the cutoff for the provincial tourney.

“We feel fortunate to be at the provincials. The guys are really pumped,” said Johnson.

Play began with a round robin on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the LEC’s gyms, with playoffs beginning at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1 and continuing to Saturday, Dec. 3.

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