Team B.C. leans on P.G. players

A pack of College Heights Cougars players have fought their way onto the B.C. 16-and-under male volleyball squad.

After a four-day selection camp (Baden Cup) in Kamloops last week, five players from the Cougars made the final roster that will compete at the National Team Challenge Cup tournament against other 16U provincial teams in Edmonton from July 15-19.

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They include right side hitter/power hitter/middle blocker Ben Shand, middles Jonah Gilbert and Nathan Provan, setter Graham Walkey, libero Nick Hansen and power hitter Nigel Thompson, who was selected as an alternate.

They're among 24 players and six alternates on the provincial team. Prince George Youth Volleyball Club coach Linden Smith will serve as an assistant coach on the squad.

The College Heights athletes helped the Cougars junior A team win the north central zone title in 2014-15. The squad went on to a fifth-place finish at the B.C. high school junior boys provincial championship with a 6-1 record.

They were also part of a Prince George Youth Volleyball Club U16 side that finished second in the Tier 2 division at the national club championships in Calgary in May.

Last summer in Nanaimo, they were part of the Zone 8 squad that finished fourth at the B.C. Summer Games.

When they return to College Heights this fall as Grade 11 students, they'll try out for the senior boys team under the guidance of co-coaches Jay Guillet and Smith.

"I'm really proud of them and where they've come from," said Guillet, who coached Shand and Gilbert in Grade 7 and the remainder in Grade 8. "They've been together since Grade 8 and they love the sport of volleyball. They've become super friends on and off the court. And they're not just one dimensional (sport) kids. Before volleyball, they were in swimming, basketball and hockey and in a variety of activities. They're also on the honour roll and principal's list."

The B.C. team is currently training in Kamloops to prepare for the National Team Challenge Cup tournament. The team will leave for Edmonton on July 14.

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