Raiders de­throne Li­ons in AA vol­ley­ball

Sabres knock off Saints in AAA

Windsor Star - - SPORTS - JIM PARKER jp­parker@post­ Twit­­starparker

The Leam­ing­ton Li­ons were un­able to put an end to the Es­sex Red Raiders’ roll. Leam­ing­ton’s hopes for a third­straight trip to OF­SAA came to an end Fri­day as the Red Raiders knocked off the de­fend­ing WECS - SAA boys’ AA vol­ley­ball cham­pi­ons at the St. Clair Col­lege Sport­sPlex. “I’ve had a ri­valry with th­ese guys my whole life,” Li­ons se­nior power hit­ter Jeremiah Wiebe said. “Grade 6, 7, 8. I watched them grow up and get bet­ter and bet­ter and bet­ter and bet­ter.

“It was hon­estly a plea­sure to play with them. Life with­out them in vol­ley­ball wouldn’t be as fun. So, they 100 per cent de­served the win.”

Es­sex took the match 3-1 by scores of 26-28, 25-23, 25-19 and 31-29 to claim the ti­tle. “They came back,” Es­sex’s Nick Kwiatkowski said. “They ’re a great group of guys on the other side of the net.”

Leam­ing­ton lost just two matches this sea­son and both were to the Red Raiders, who opened the sea­son with a three-set loss to Sand­wich and then reeled off 12-straight match vic­to­ries to se­cure the ti­tle.

“Last year, we had a lot of young peo­ple,” the 16-year-old Kwiatkowski said. “We just tried to pick up more chem­istry. We got a lit­tle bit of an older group and we’re con­fi­dent in our­selves.”

But the Li­ons would not go down eas­ily and sent a mes­sage by tak­ing the first set 28-26 with Wiebe serv­ing it out.

“I was kind of mad,” Es­sex’s Ja­cob Derk­sen said of the first-set loss. “It was dis­ap­point­ing. I knew we could do bet­ter.”

But it wasn’t un­til late in the sec­ond set that the Red Raiders would get a lead af­ter break­ing away from a 21-21 tie to win by two points. “We had to stay fo­cused and keep our heads in the game,” Kwiatkowski said. “We just wanted to win the next one.”

By the third set, the Red Raiders started to find their groove as the Li­ons strug­gled to con­tain a big­ger Es­sex pres­ence at the net. “They’ve got great ta­lent,” the 17-year-old Wiebe said.

Up 24-21 in the fourth set, the Red Raiders looked poised to fin­ish off the Li­ons, but it would take 60 points be­fore Es­sex was fi­nally able to serve out the match. “We were down and I just kept cheer­ing the team on ba­si­cally say­ing, ‘We got this, we can come back, we can come back,’ ” Wiebe said. “The emo­tion in that game, ev­ery­thing was laid out on that floor.” With as much re­lief as pride, the Red Raiders were fi­nally able to knock off the Li­ons to take the ti­tle. “I’m happy for our team and our ac­com­plish­ment,” said the 16-year-old Derk­sen, whose team now heads to SWOSSAA look­ing for an OF­SAA berth.

The third-seeded Sand­wich Sabres took the AAA se­nior boys fi­nal with a three-set win over the St. Anne Saints, who were seek­ing a fifth-straight ti­tle. Sand­wich, which up­set St. Joseph in the semis, took out the top-seeded Saints 3-0 by scores of 25-19, 25-18 and 26-24.

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