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Condors ranked No. 3 in B.C. after wrapping up North Central zone title

Queens University recruit Zimmerman sets up straight-set victory over College Heights in final
25 Duchess Park Condors Dbl-A boys zone champs 2021
The Duchess Park Condors went undefeated this season against North Central zone opponents. They wrapped up the double-A boys zone volleyball championship Saturday at College Heights with a three-set victory over the host Cougars in the final.

The Duchess Park Condors kept their perfect record against zone opponents intact and are heading to the double-A boys volleyball provincial championship as the undisputed kings of the North Central district.

They earned their crowns Saturday at College Heights Secondary School with a straight-set 25-14, 25-12, 25-21 victory over their cross-town rivals, the College Heights Cougars, in the zone championship match.

The Condors’ decisive win not only sewed up the first berth in the 16-team double-A provincial championship but also raised Duchess Park’s ranking and they’ll head to Victoria as the No. 3-ranked team in the province. College Heights also claimed a provincial berth and will be seeded fifth out of 16.

“That was a really good match for us, a really good team win and a lot of pieces came together for us, especially following up our tournament in Kamloops (two weekends ago),” said Condors setter Chris Zimmerman, who was a standout all weekend and was selected the tournament MVP.

“We’ve just got real good team dynamics - we only have 11 guys this year, but people show up and we put in the work in practice. Especially the seven guys who are on the floor always, they want to win and we’re really competitive and just having that competitive edge has been really important and really driven it for us.”

Fatigue might have been a factor in the final and College Heights was feeling the draining effects of a five-set semifinal win the night before over the D.P. Todd Trojans – a 22-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20, 17-15 barnburner.

“That was an epic battle, they definitely made us pretty gassed for the (final),” said Cougars head coach Lori Slater. “I only had seven players play all five of those sets. We put our pretty strong lineup on, and it was pretty apparent we were going to have a challenge. It was necessary to make sure we had that second spot.

“We know (the Condors) play and unfortunately we didn’t give them the challenge we gave them in the Duchess Park tournament when we went to three (sets) with them in the final. It just wasn’t our day.”

Condors head coach Jason Weaver said Zimmerman lived up to his reputation in the final, delivering strong consistent serves and making use of his six-foot-three height to block the Trojans’ outside hitting attack.

“Usually at this level, most of the teams don’t have huge middles and the stronger players are the left-side hitters and he matches up well against those guys,” said Weaver. “He’s just a great kid, with his attitude.”

Zimmerman, a perennial Team BC player who made the U-18 provincial team two years running, said the Condors’ success the previous week at the TRU tournament in Kamloops, which established their high provincial ranking, provided an energy boost heading into the zone tournament.

The Condors lost their only match this season in that semifinal, 25-18, 25-23 to the Kelowna Owls, the No. 1-ranked triple A boys team in B.C. Duchess Park finished third, while in the final Kelowna went on to defeat No. 1-ranked double-A M.E.I. of Abbotsford.

School District 57 kept local school teams grounded most of the season to limit the threat of COVID and the Kamloops tournament was the only test all season for local teams against the top teams in the province. D.P. Todd carried a No. 10 provincial ranking but didn’t make the cut into the provincial mix. Zimmerman says having three top-10 teams in the zone to play each weekend helped make up for their cancelled trips that excluded them from some high-calibre tournaments down south.

“I can’t remember the zone being this competitive, having three teams like that,” said Zimmerman, a Queens University recruit for next year. “It’s normally just one or two in the top-10 and that was huge for us this year, not being able to travel, we felt like we were prepared when we got to Kamloops, having played those teams.”

Key in their romp to the zone title were Condors’ middle blocker Esme Long and right-side hitter Isaak Lank, who each turned in all-star performances.

“Isaak has really turned the corner this last year,” said Weaver. “We moved him from the left side to the right side this year and that’s made a big difference for our team. Esme is solid player all around, he’s not the biggest middle but he’s quick and he seems to give other opponents difficulty trying to block him with his speed and quickness.

“We’re not a big team but we do everything fairly well. We pass the ball really well and serve well, which are two important keys in volleyball.”

Left-side hitter Jeremy Weaver aced his serving tests and was also a key element in the Condors backcourt, digging up difficult returns in the final.

Jacob Hoskins, Ashton Pigeau, Raiden Aimetz, Brett Kester, Owen McKee and Ryan Danbrook were the other Condors who make up the zone-champion roster. Tim Flannigan is the assistant coach.

College Heights was led by club volleyball veterans Jordan Fulljames and Eli Woldringh, who also have Team BC pedigrees. Jeremy Pegdin of Nechako Valley and Brandon Steel of D.P. Todd also made the all-star team, while Josiah Lawrence of D.P. Todd was named the top defensive player.

The Condors start their double-A provincial quest on Wednesday, Dec.1, grouped in a Pool A with top-ranked MEI, the No. 2-ranked hosts from Pacific Christian and No. 4 Langley Christian.

College Heights heads Pool B, which it shares with Summerland, W.L. Seaton of Vernon and Pacific Academy of Surrey. Slater said her team has developed on a fast track considering some of her players this season hadn’t played volleyball in years and there was some doubt in the summer that they would have players to form a team.

“We have a strong legacy of volleyball at College Heights and they came into the season knowing we’re inexperienced,” she said. “The season is short and the learning curve is very steep, and so I’m incredibly proud of them.”

The Condors had planned all along to fly to Victoria, but the Cougars are scrambling to make flight plans, now that essential travel on the highways to Vancouver is banned due to all the road closures from last week’s rainstorm. A decision on whether or not the provincial tournament will go ahead as planned will be made Tuesday in a B.C. School Sports emergency meeting.