St. Mike’s ends Rams’ run
Warriors beat Stratford Central in senior boys volleyball final; Rams win junior title
There’s a new Huron-Perth senior boys volleyball champion.
The St. Michael Warriors dethroned Stratford Central with a four-set win Thursday on home court.
“Very early on in our season it was evident this was a special group of young men,” Warriors head coach Carolyn Bell said. “How quickly they gelled with each other and really made their passion for volleyball their focus, and that’s what we focused on. Time and time again I’d say at practice that volleyball is about who can control the ball on their side of the court the best. Moments today I think we didn’t do that well, and at times we very much did that well.”
After splitting the first two sets, the Warriors pulled away in the third set and then withstood a Stratford Central rally late in the fourth.
“It was awesome. We played a pretty great game and it’s still a little bit surreal,” St. Mike’s middle Connor Meirering said. “I can’t believe we won.”
Meirering was part of the Warriors team that lost to the Rams in last year’s conference final. The fifth-year student figured St. Mike’s would be successful in the rematch as long as it remained aggressive.
“We have good hitters and we have good passing,” he said. “We just have to make sure we run it and then we’ll be fine.”
Playing in front of a raucous crowd also helped the Warriors, who earned home court advantage after going undefeated in the regular season.
“When you get to host in your own gym it’s pressure, but then it vibrates, and that vibration helps the lads,” Bell said.
St. Mike’s will get a short break before competing at WOSSAA Tuesday in Ingersoll. The HuronPerth champs will face London South or Montcalm in the quarterfinal.
“I think we’ll go to Tuesday’s games with a better sense of ease,” Bell said. “There’s always this rivalry playing Central that makes the guys play (too excited), and you want to keep them grounded. I think we’ll be confident going into Tuesday and play our game a little smoother.”
The Rams weren’t as sharp Thursday as they were this week in their semifinal win over Northwestern. Missed serves, in particular, hampered Central’s momentum.
“I think we tried to be a little too fine on some details and didn’t keep it simple, but I’m proud of the way the guys played,” head coach Chris Parson said. “We made a game of the last set even though our big middle (Blake Bos) went down.
“Sometimes you need a little bit of that adversity to see how the team is, and they rose to the occasion.” Central’s run at the top lasted two years, as the Rams won consecutive WOSSAA titles and earned provincial gold and silver. Their Huron-Perth title in 2016 was the school’s first since 1999.
“When I started coaching at Central we talked about the legacy of the teams from back when I played in the 80s, and the luster from our program had kind of fallen away, and I wanted to bring that back,” Parson said.
“Now we’ve been there and we’ve been to OFSAA and won medals there ... the program is solid and I’m happy with what it is, so it’s good.”
Central turned the tables in the Huron-Perth junior final, sweeping St. Mike’s 25-19, 25-20, 25-19.
“They’re a strong team this year,” said Andy Linley, the Rams co-coach with Kerry Thompson. “They’ve got a really good base, nice kids, they’ve grown a lot this year. They’re a cohesive bunch and have fun together, and they’ve become more comfortable as a group. There’s been some real skill development this year too with fundamentals.”
Led by Grade 10 players Nick McCabe, Erik Smith, Camden Daigle, David Hynd, Dylan Van Nes and Luke DeVries, the Rams went undefeated in the regular season and didn’t drop a set in conference play.
They’ll try to parlay that into a WOSSAA medal Tuesday in Ingersoll.
“I hope we can establish the middle and continue to hit and be resilient,” Linley said. “When you get down a couple points in junior they can sink, but if you can bounce back and play your game and pick one another up I think they can be successful.”
St. Mike’s Ronan McCarroll tries to get a hit through the blocks of Stratford Central’s Josh Phongsavath (6) and Ethan Gebremicael (3) during the Huron-Perth senior boys volleyball final Thursday at St. Mike’s. The Warriors won in four sets.
Stratford Central’s Jackson Martin attempts to block St. Mike’s Connor Loerzel during the Huron-Perth junior boys volleyball final Thursday at Central. The Rams won in straight sets.
Stratford Central’s Trent Zorgdrager hits a ball off the blocks of St. Mike’s Connor Meiering (8) and Liam McCann in the senior boys final.
St. Mike’s Zach Schooley pushes the ball over the outstretched arms of Stratford Central’s Erik Smith in the junior boys final.