British Columbia

After season of away games, Gibsons, B.C., volleyball team finally hosts a home game

All seven games the team has participated in have been away games — one in Sechelt, another Sunshine Coast community, and six on the Lower Mainland's North Shore.

Opposing teams don't want to travel by ferry to the Sunshine Coast

After a winning season, consisting entirely of away games, the Elphinstone Cougars bantam volleyball team is finally getting to host a game. (Andrew Appleton)

The Cougars bantam volleyball team of Elphinstone Secondary School in Gibsons, B.C. is finally playing a home game.

On Saturday, the Cougars are hosting the inaugural Coastal Cup. The team's coach says the tournament is a big deal for the players, because it's first time this season that they'll host opposing teams.

All seven games the team has played have been away games — six on the Lower Mainland's North Shore, and another in nearby Sechelt.

"It's a lot of travel, and this tournament is to just let them experience what it's like to have them play in front of a home crowd," said Cougars' coach Andrew Appleton, who's also the father of a team member.

An inconvenient journey

Nestled on the Strait of Georgia northwest of Vancouver, Gibsons is a Sunshine Coast community that can be difficult for visiting teams to reach.

So difficult, that when Appleton extended a Coastal Cup invitation to bantam teams on the North Shore, all eight declined.

But the coach said he has no hard feelings about the teams turning down the invitations — he's had to make the trip in the other direction several times with his team, and understands how taxing it can be.

Every game day, Appleton collects the Cougars around 2 p.m. in Gibsons. They then proceed to the ferry, and wait for the next sailing. Once at Horseshoe Bay, the team has to deal with North Vancouver's often congested traffic.

He said they normally arrive at the opposing team's school at about 4 p.m., before playing at 4:30 p.m. The Cougars then go back to Horseshoe Bay, and wait for the 8 p.m. sailing. Team members don't typically get home until about 9:30 p.m.

'It's a long day'

"It's a long day and it's a lot to ask of the girls, but they do really well," said Appleton.

Because the North Shore teams aren't attending, the Cougars will play only Sunshine Coast teams in the tournament.

To improve the situation next season, Appleton said he will try to get ferry concession passes for the North Shore teams.

"We finished off our season 6-1, so we're no slouches over here," said Appleton, laughing.

"If you come over and take the time to take that ferry, we're going to show you a good time."

With files from The Early Edition and Sophie Woodrooffe