One last thrilling night of action produced a pair of upsets to conclude the Richmond Senior Volleyball Championships.
The McMath Wildcats and Steveston-London Sharks rolled through city play with unbeaten records and it stayed that way right up until the championship matches.
The Wildcats reign as senior girls champion ended against their only serious challenger all season - the Richmond Christian Eagles.
The Sharks were three points away from completing a dramatic comeback, only to allow the Richmond Colts one last gasp and come away with a thrilling five set victory.
This is the best senior girls team the Eagles have ever put on the floor and being ranked among the top "AA" programs in the province all season proved just that. Still, it was a tall order for the small school to take out a McMath team that was a fixture in the "AAAA" provincial rankings and won the only regular season meeting 3-1 a month earlier.
The Eagles didn't waste anytime in showing this outcome might be different with an impressive game one victory. They then held off McMath to win the second set 26-24 and completed the surprising sweep with another nail-biter in the third game (27-25) for their first-ever Richmond banner.
The result provided plenty of momentum heading into this week's district playoffs where Richmond Christian is trying to secure one of four berths to the provincials in Nanaimo. The Wildcats' season also remains very much alive as they attempt to qualify for the "AAAA" provincials in Port Coquitlam.
"It was a goal they set at the start of the season and something these girls have wanted for the last four years," said Eagles coach Karen Prinsloo of the city championship. "It was a lot tougher and closer match than the final score would suggest. McMath really stepped up their game after the first set and it took a lot for the girls to hold them off.
"We just made fewer errors compared to the first time we played them. Our serving was a lot better and that was a big difference as the girls were much more focused. "We also made one change to the line-up to improve our defensive play and I think that helped too."
The Richmond Colts looked poised to complete an impressive week and win their first senior city boys championship in dominant fashion.
They swept aside a strong McRoberts Strikers team in the semi-finals and then surprised a packed Steveston-London gym by taking the first two games from the heavily favoured hosts.
The Colts enjoyed a 15-11 lead in the third set when the Sharks showed why they have been among the province's top "AAA" teams all season by roaring back to extend the match. They proceeded to win the next game and enjoyed a 12-9 lead in the fifth and deciding set. That's when Richmond High's senior dominated line-up dug deep to score seven of the next nine points to pull out a thrilling 16-14 victory.
Led by Grade 12 Team B.C. players Nick Lightfoot and Ryan Ramsey, this might have been the Colts last chance at winning a city championship for some time. The Sharks are loaded with excel-lent Grade 11 talent, including twin standouts Ethan and Gabriel Freund.
"This is absolutely huge for us," yelled co-coach Jessica Ramsey amid a mob of celebrating Richmond High students who had rushed onto the floor after the win.
"I have been with this same group of guys for five years and we have won one Richmond title (in Grade 9). This honestly feels the best."
Even with all the faith they have in their boys, Ramsey and co-coach Travis McClellan believed their championship dream had come to an end when the Sharks were within three points of the title.
"I honestly though it was over," added McClellan. "This game was as close as it could get and the boys played with a lot of heart and found a way to win."
The victory puts the Colts in good shape heading into this week's district playoffs were they are looking to earn one of four berths to the provincials in Kelowna.
The Sharks had to win a backdoor playoff tournament to earn a wild card berth into the districts.
"It's a tough road but something these boys are definitely capable of," said Steveston-London coach Edmond Ma.
"I knew they were capable of coming back the way they did but unfortunately we couldn't finish it off. It's a good experience for them and hopefully they will learn from it."