Pen Hi Lakers Jaden Yamomoto (left) and Elsa Siemons block a spike attempt. The Lakers are hosting the 2018 AAAA Girls Volleyball Provincials this week. Mark Brett/Western News

Okanagan school 20-team AAAA BC girls volleyball championships

Pen Hi Lakers hosting the provincial girls volleyball championships, action begins Thursday.

An estimated 250 players from across the province were to arrive in Penticton Wednesday for the start of the 2018 AAAA Girls Volleyball Provincials.

Penticton Secondary School is hosting the event which kicks off with a banquet Wednesday evening with action getting underway Thursday morning.

This is the first time there has been 20 teams competing in the provincials, four more than the last time Pen Hi Lakers hosted the event five years ago.

Along with the Lakers, the other Okanagan Valley teams include Kelowna Secondary and Okanagan Mission of Kelowna.

“It takes a lot of committed people to put this on, Bruce McElroy is the tournament chair and he’s done a great job,” said Lakers Rob Gunning, who shares the coaching duties with Andy Botero and Robyn Richter. “With 20 teams it’s a new draw so that will be interesting and we’re hoping for good things again this week, it’s going to be fun.

“We’re going to have three full days of volleyball, the banquet and I think it’s going to be a huge benefit to the community the way we look at it, restaurants and hotels will all be busy this weekend.”

Related: Penticton Secondary School swim to another provincial championship

While Belmont Secondary School is ranked number in the province and a favourite coming into the provincials Gunning believes there are going to be a lot of close matches.

“I think it’s going to be a topsy turvy tournament, there’s the potential for us to finish in the top eight but there’s also the potential for us to finish fairly low,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of upsets.”

The Lakers have been ranked as high as eighth in the province this season, winding up third third in the Valley.

Two venues will be used for the matches, Pen Hi and Okanagan College.

The Lakers will open the tournament Thursday at 11:45 a.m. against Oak Bay, will play again at 2:15 p.m. against Moscrop Secondary of Burnaby and will take on Maple Ridge in their final match of the day at 4:45 p.m.

All Pen Hi games Thursday are at the college.

The only round robin match Friday for Penticton is at 8:30 a.m. against Terry Fox Secondary of Port Coquitlam at Pen Hi.

Playoffs begin at 1 p.m. and will go to the last match at 8 p.m.

Action gets underway Saturday at 9 a.m. and will finish with the medal rounds, the bronze at 5:15 p.m. and the gold at 6:30 p.m., both at Pen Hi.