St. Mike’s ends Rams’ run

War­riors beat Strat­ford Cen­tral in se­nior boys vol­ley­ball fi­nal; Rams win ju­nior ti­tle

The Beacon Herald - - SPORTS - CORY SMITH SPORTS EDI­TOR

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.”

CORY SMITH/THE BEA­CON HER­ALD

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.

PHO­TOS BY CORY SMITH PHOTO/THE BEA­CON HER­ALD

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.

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