The Oak Bay Barbers boys volleyball team made no assumptions about how far it could go this year.
At least, not out loud.
But it’s no shock to co-coach Rick Wutzke, as the Barbers repeated as the 2012 AAA champions at UBC-Okanagan.
The Barbers defeating the Kelowna Owls in three straight sets of the final on Saturday (Dec. 1), finishing the provincial tournament undefeated despite going in ranked third.
“We lost some games this year but I’m not surprised (we are B.C. champs),” Wutzke said. “Eight of the 12 Barbers are from the same group from Lansdowne middle school that won the national club championship in their Grade 8 year.
“It’s been a fun ride with these guys, it’s quite the talented group.”
For the Barbers, it’s the second straight B.C. title and the third in seven years, having won it in 2006.
This year may have started different, but it ended the same.
“We told the guys, you have to remember everybody wants to knock us off; as soon as you let your guard down they’re ready to jump on you,” Wutzke said.
That’s been the mentality from the outset this year, as the Barbers entered every gym wearing a target, the talk of the province.
The key was finding a way to replace the graduated stars from the 2011 team such as 6-foot-6 Alex Swiatlowksi to the UBC-Okanagan Heat, Ryan Marcellus to the Camosun Chargers and Nick Stefanakis to the VIU Mariners.
That was done with 6-foot-7 middle Graeme Prendergast (Grade 12), and the continued growth of players such as Dan Phillips, Sawyer Stein and Talon Rimmer.
They all supported the team’s big three of setter Leon Young, power hitters Elion Wong and Lars Bornemann, who was named the most outstanding player of the provincial tournament for the second-straight year.
Though the 2012 Barbers weren’t able to run undefeated through the tournament and regular season as they did in 2011, they were just as good.
“We lost about four games along the way, at crucial times,” Wutzke said, “spots where we shouldn’t have lost but we did, but it’s all character building.”
By crucial, Wutzke is referring to the Barbers getting knocked out of the UBC and Thompson Rivers tournaments early this season.
The route to the provincial final saw Oak Bay defeat Island rivals Dover Bay in Game 1 of the playoffs on Thursday, Elgin Park in the quarterfinals on Friday morning and, Moscrop in the semifinals on Friday night.
It set up a rubber match final between the Barbers and Kelowna Owls, with each having defeated each other once in previous meetings this season.
Oak Bay won in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-22.
The Lansdowne pipeline
Wutzke, a retired teacher who co-coaches the Barbers with Oak Bay science teacher Al Carmichael, has brought many players through the Lansdowne pipeline, and there’s another crew coming to the Barbers, led by budding Grade 10 star Kyle Borden.
It’s where Young, Wong and Bornemann all came from.
“Six of the guys on the junior team that won the B.C. Summer Games last year (U15) and were second in the club provincials will be Barbers,” Wutzke said.
Barbers Noah Harris, Kieran Atkinson, Chris Dzoiba and Isaac Walters were also key members of the 2012 championship.