Jr. Ea­gles take Game 1 of vol­ley­ball fi­nal

The Expositor (Brantford) - - SPORTS - BRIAN SMILEY EX­POS­I­TOR STAFF

It took 48 hours for St. John’s Col­lege to grab a 1-0 lead in the Brant County high school ju­nior boys vol­ley­ball cham­pi­onship.

Two days af­ter an in­ci­dent at As­sump­tion Col­lege forced the school to be closed in the mid­dle of Game 1, the Green Ea­gles on Thurs­day de­feated the Brantford Col­le­giate In­sti­tute Mus­tangs 26-24, 25-21, 20-25 and 25-14 at ACS to take a 1-0 lead in the be­stof-three fi­nal.

Game 2 will be played Fri­day at 4 p.m. and Game 3, if nec­es­sary, will be Mon­day at 4 p.m. Both games are at ACS.

Game 1 started on Tues­day but was halted with SJC up 2-0 in the best-of-five match – and lead­ing 11-8 in the third set. An an­nounce­ment was made in­struct­ing ev­ery­one at the school to as­sem­ble in the gym. About 30 min­utes later, ev­ery­one was es­corted out of the gym by po­lice and the game was post­poned. Later, po­lice an­nounced that they had charged a 21-year-old man with ut­ter­ing threats.

St. John’s coach Pa­trick Wilkes said he tried to put the play­ers’ fo­cus on Thurs­day’s game.

“We just kept re­mind­ing them that they can’t con­trol the el­e­ments, all they can do is con­trol what’s on the court,” he said.

The Ea­gles did not panic when they lost the third set on Thurs­day.

“We’ve got a good group of kids,” said Wilkes. “They still man­aged to fight and get a win.”

Af­ter be­gin­ning the reg­u­lar sea­son with one win and two losses, the Ea­gles went 6-1.

Wilkes cred­ited the play­ers’ ma­tu­rity and con­fi­dence with the turnaround.

“I would say they’re grow­ing,” said the coach, whose team en­joyed its first win of the sea­son against BCI.

This is how the first two sets and the start of the third in the best-of­five match played out on Tues­day.

SJC’s Ro­nan Vezsenyi had two big blocks and then a hit to tie the first set at 2-2. The Green Ea­gles even­tu­ally went ahead 6-3 but, fol­low­ing some fine serves from Steven Knights, BCI went out front 7-6.

With Vezsenyi con­tin­u­ing his strong play at the net, St. John’s turned the tide and grabbed a 14-8 lead. Fol­low­ing back-to-back hits from James Deane, the ad­van­tage for the Ea­gles stretched to 20-12.

At that point, the set seemed sealed but BCI had other ideas, bat­tling back to tie the match at 24-24. How­ever, Vezsenyi came through at the end with a spike to put SJC up 1-0.

De­spite the rocky end­ing to the first set, the Green Ea­gles picked up things to start the sec­ond, grab­bing a 3-0 lead thanks to strong serv­ing from Jor­dan MacK­in­non.

Down 7-3, BCI’s Sean Pugh had a nice tip and then William Ford served a cou­ple of points to get the Mus­tangs to within one.

Things stayed rel­a­tively close un­til SJC went ahead 13-9 but the mo­men­tum switched again on a block from Chase Bagshaw of the Mus­tangs. With Jas­con Es­toesra serv­ing up a storm, BCI took a 15-13 lead.

How­ever, in the end, St. John’s over­took its op­po­nent and went ahead 2-0.

Down 8-2 in the third set, the Mus­tangs took a time­out to re­group and that seemed to work as BCI reeled off four straight points to get back in the game.

When play re­sumed on Thurs­day, SJC held an 11-8 lead in the third set but the Mus­tangs ral­lied and even­tu­ally went ahead 14-13.

The Ea­gles looked like a com­pletely dif­fer­ent team from Tues­day as they were on their heels.

On the other side of the net, BCI also brought a dif­fer­ent game to the court on Thurs­day, at­tack­ing and push­ing for­ward to ex­tend the match.

Even­tu­ally the Mus­tangs would achieve their goal, send­ing things to a fourth set.

Great serv­ing from Jaden Chagnon and a cou­ple of hits from Vezsenyi helped turn around things for St. John’s as it went ahead 6-1. And, af­ter the lead was ex­tended to 12-5, BCI called time­out.

But the break didn’t help and af­ter the Ea­gles in­creased their ad­van­tage to 15-5, they were well on their way to win­ning the match.

It’s been a tough week for the Mus­tangs. Af­ter the in­ci­dent at As­sump­tion, the fol­low­ing day there was a hold and se­cure at BCI af­ter the school re­ceived a threat.

“It’s been an emo­tional week for them,” said BCI coach Kes­sia Rosa. “We had two lock­downs back-to­back.”

But the coach said she is pleased with how her team played. “They han­dled it well,” she said. The coach said her team, which fin­ished first dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son at 8-2, will be ready for Game 2 on Fri­day.

“They don’t like to lose and they’ve had a lot of win­ning. They like the taste of that.”

BRIAN THOMP­SON/THE EX­POS­I­TOR

Chase Bagshaw (left) and William Ford of Brantford Col­le­giate In­sti­tute go up for the block as Ro­nan Vezsenyi of St. John's Col­lege gets set to spike the ball dur­ing a ju­nior boys vol­ley­ball fi­nal on Tues­day at As­sump­tion Col­lege that was post­poned on Tues­day and re­sumed on Thurs­day.

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