When you’ve been on the same team as long as Jessica Lane and Renata Baldwin have, you get to know your teammates.
And you get to know what to expect from each other.
The Mount Douglas Rams junior volleyball team are gearing up to defend their 2013 Island championships as hosts of the 2014 junior girls Island championship at Mount Doug on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 21 to 22.
That the Rams are the favourite is a given, seeing as they won the tournament as a cast of Grade 9 players last year.
As a team composed entirely of Grade 10 girls, there is little room for doubt. But you wouldn’t know it from the players who jovially set up the court for a recent practice.
“We’re a pretty close team, we’ve bonded really well because we’ve known each other so long, some us were on the same team going back to Grade 5,” Lane said.
The goal this week is to win the Island championship again and improve on the team’s 11th overall finish at provincials from last year, she added.
The team’s history is taking on a life of its own, as they’ve compiled a long list of achievements.
The group of Gordon Head kids double as a team – player for player – in the Victoria Volleyball Association, which is the jersey they were wearing when they won silver at the 2013 Western Nationals and won the last four Island club championships for their age group.
“Most of us came from Arbutus middle school and a few others are from Gordon Head middle school,” said Baldwin. “Having the Islands here, it’s big motivation to have our friends and family at the games.”
As expected, the Rams were a force in the regular season, going undefeated in the A pool without dropping a single set (the upstart Spencer middle school girls came the closest).
There was talk of bumping the Rams to the senior level this year but because they slipped to 11th at last year’s provincials, they decided to stay at the junior level, said coach Shawn Boulding, Mount Doug’s principal.
“This group of Grade 10 girls is very unique, a special group to work with. They are wonderful individually and best friends off the court as well – inseparable but at the same time very welcoming and open to new teammates.”
It’s lightning in a bottle for Mount Doug, which has seen its share of ups and downs at the senior level. Getting an entire team from Arbutus and Gordon Head middle schools is rare, as those schools produce a third of the school’s 1,100 or so students.
The Rams also have a second team, Rams B, made up of Grade 9 players. It also played the regular season schedule in the city’s top division and finished middle of the pack.
It’s all part of a level excitement around the sport at Mount Doug, said Baldwin.
“You can see volleyball growing. Football is still huge at Mount Doug, but it’s not just hear it’s across the Island, volleyball is growing.”