Championship action for seven area high schools
Provincial bragging rights on the line for high school volleyball, basketball teams
The busiest provincial high school championship season is set to get underway on Monday. A total of eight OFSAA championships will be contested across the province, and that includes a local touch, with the General Amherst Bulldogs hosting the girls’ AA volleyball championship in Amherstburg and Windsor.
Seven area schools have qualified for Ontario championships in basketball or volleyball, while another 25 athletes are headed to Ottawa for the provincial wrestling championships, and more than 100 will hit the pool at the Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto for the swimming finals.
The Bulldogs qualified automatically as the host team, but still won the SWOSSAA title. That opened the door for the Essex Red Raiders to challenge for the second entry and a 3-0 sweep of Chatham McGregor earned the club the second seed. The 20-team tournament will feature four pools for round robin play on three courts at the St. Clair College SportsPlex, as well as the General Amherst gym. “Our goal is to finish top two in our pool and hopefully advance to the championship quarters,” General Amherst head coach Jeff Miller said.
The squad relies on its four outside hitters in Bynlee Ammonite, Emery Lucier, Emma MacVoy and Vanessa Pidutti, who is the only Grade 12 student. General Amherst opens the OFSAA tourney on Monday at 9 a.m. against No. 16 Fort Frances and will also face No. 11 London Mother Teresa at noon and No. 1 Burlington Corpus Christi at 3 p.m. All three games are at the SportsPlex. The local team closes pool play on Tuesday at General Amherst against No. 20 Cite des Jeunes from Kapuskasing. The Red Raiders are seeded 15th for the event, but head coach Josh Muldoon says his team could surprise a few squads. “Unfortunately, we’ve been plagued by injuries this season and haven’t been able to put together a great record for the OFSAA committee,” Muldoon said. “Now that our team is healthy, I expect a strong showing.”
Essex will lean on outside hitter Brooke Salter and middles Julia Incitti and Kim Orton to lead the attack.
Essex will play all four of its pool games at the SportsPlex. The Red Raiders open Monday at 9 a.m. against No. 5. Fonthill E.L. Crossley, face No. 2 North Bay Widdifield at noon, then No. 18 Toronto Bishop Marocco/Thomas Merton, before closing pool play on Tuesday against No. 12 Thornhill Thornlea at 11:30 a.m.
The Kennedy Clippers carry the area’s hopes heading to OFSAA.
After hosting the AAA championship a year ago, the Clippers are the No. 1 seed at the AA boys’ basketball championship in Timmins.
“Happy with the seeding, but we need to perform at a high level,” Clippers head coach Pat Osborne said.
Kennedy will rely heavily on seniors D.J. Simonato, Akot Aken and Gatluak James in the tournament. They open on Monday at 9:30 a.m. against No. 19 Brockville Thousand Islands.
“At this stage of the game, seeding means little if you’re not ready to play against any of these teams,” Osborne said.
A Villanova Wildcats SWOSSAA title carried little weight with the rankings committee. The Wildcats are the No. 17 seed at the AAA girls’ volleyball championship in Burlington. “Based on what we have seen at previous tournaments, we know the level of competition will be high,” Wildcats coach Angela Laporta said.
Villanova will count on firstteam all-city libero Meaghan Trotter along with setter Emily Tracey and right side Brennah Winterburn. Middle Chantel Kelly and left side Angelina Kirincic will also factor in the team’s success.
The Wildcats open play on Monday against No. 4 Iroquois Ridge and then take on No. 10 Hamilton Westdale. The team closes pool play on Tuesday against No. 4 North York Havergal and No. 7 Scarborough Sir Oliver Mowat. Villanova must finish top two in pool play to advance to the quarter-finals.
The Holy Names Knights are the No. 11 seed heading into the OFSAA boys’ AAA basketball championship. They drew No. 1 Ajax Pine Ridge for the team’s first game on Monday.
“The first one doesn’t sink you, you can still get to the medal round. It just makes your road a little harder,” Knights head coach Kyle Kane said.
The Knights compiled a 25-5 record this season and found success pressuring the ball. Guard Andre Familia was second in the voting for Mr. Basketball, while guards Mehkai Barnett and Galdo Tutu were both all-stars. Guard Rodi Mazloum can also spark the offence and defence.
After hosting last year’s event, the Lajeunesse Royals hit the road for this year’s OFSAA girls’ A volleyball championship tournament in Kenora.
“We’ve been working hard all season to be ready for this high level of competition,” Royals head coach Sonia Lapierre said. “I’m hoping we play the best Lajeunesse volleyball possible, one team at a time, and leave it all on the court.”
Middle Megan Gahima can dominate on offence and defence, while the Royals will also look for strong play from setter Kaitlin Carson. Lajeunesse is the No. 14 seed and opens on Monday against No. 3. St. Marys District Collegiate at 9:30 a.m. Next they face No. 8 Richmond Hill Holy Trinity before closing out pool play on Tuesday against No. 9 Durham Christian. The club needs a top-two finish in pool play to advance to the quarter-finals.
“We have a great group of very dedicated and hard-working student athletes,” Lapierre said.
After ending a three-year title run by Lajeunesse, the Lamothe-Cadillac Falcons hit the road to beat Blenheim for the SWOSSAA title and earn a spot at the OFSAA championship. However, the Falcons drew the No. 1-ranked team in Timmins O’Gorman to open the boys’ A basketball championship on Monday in London.
“Our players have a great attitude when it comes to facing adversity, and after three years, we now have the experience to handle teams that have a great program in place,” Falcons manager Rene Guevremont said. The Falcons will lean on guard Kadar Ibrahim along with small forward Lukens Laborde.
Gatluak James, seen hurdling a Brennan defender during recent action, will be a key performer for the Kennedy Clippers starting Monday at the OFSAA AA basketball tournament in Timmins.
The No. 1 ranked Kennedy Clippers will lean heavily in D.J. Simonato at the Ontario high school AA boys’ basketball championships in Timmins.