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Saturday, Sep. 22, 2018
Lancers volleyball ready to strike again
by Randy Pascal

There is still room for improvement with the Lasalle Lancers senior boys volleyball team this year, and that is a scary thought for the balance of their SDSSAA competition.

The two time defending city champs have graduated only Dylan Terris and Vincent Bonhomme from the roster that cruised through to a second consecutive NOSSA "AA" crown last November, before falling in the bronze medal encounter at OFSAA.

And though there is no denying the presence of Terris, in particular - Bonhomme is far more well-known for his prowess on the baseball diamond - the extra year that every other returning player has under their belt, combined with some key additions, leaves Lasalle as the prohibitive favourite to three-peat on a local level.

"Dylan (Terris) was really good, really court smart, but his brother, Kurtis, is coming up," noted veteran Tyrus Cuculick, who makes the move from middle to left side this year. "He's (Kurtis) a bigger block and he hits a little harder - and (rookie) Jason (Diotte) is 6'6" in the middle, so he'll be good."

In fact, where the 2016 version of the Lancers would often see setter Michael Babock forced to work his way through the one-two punch of Cuculick and the elder Terris, most notably against top end competition, the newer version of the team should be able to more consistently share the ball, even when facing the provincial elite.

"Last year, we didn't run many combinations, and we didn't run any back row attacks, which killed us in big games, because teams would just key on me or Dylan, the go-to guys," said Cuculick. "This year, we're hoping to run a lot more back row, a lot more combinations, keep teams guessing a little more and give us more offensive power."

And where 2016 OFSAA might have provided something of an eye-opener for a relatively young Sudbury entry, the goal this fall is to ensure that the Lasalle lads are more than comfortable at that higher level, should they make a third straight trip to the all-Ontario playdowns.

"We're going to more tournaments out of town, going to Waterloo, which has a lot of the big OFSAA teams there," stated Cuculick. "That will help us a lot. In North Bay, Chippewa (Raiders) is really, really good. In league play, we're going to have to focus a lot on getting the little things right."

Many of the Lancers hit the new school year already having worked recently on their volleyball skills, including Cameron Alisappi, who competed at one of the bigger sporting events of the summer.

"I played a lot of left side at the North American Indigenous Games, so it got me passing a lot more," noted Alisappi of his experience with Team Ontario in Toronto. "It gives me an option to stay in here and pass."

In fact, the grade 12 student had little trouble finding plenty of great takeaways from NAIG, a week-long celebration of culture and athleticism. "You get a lot of good competition and it's something new to try out," he said. "You make a lot of new friends, and the volleyball is so good."

Alisappi is expected to be among a handful of players tasked with compensating, in the middle, for the move of Cuculick to the outside. Within volleyball circles, it's considered a position that is defensively-oriented, first and foremost, a key to his team's blocking schemes.

"Usually, you've got to read the pass," suggested Alisappi. "If the pass isn't there, he's not going to set middle, so you can cheat over to the left side, giving you a better chance of blocking the ball. If the pass is there, you need to stay with the middle, and be quick enough to move."

With all due respect to the 2016 championship squad, it's entirely possible the 2017 Lancers could equal and surpass their accomplishments. "I think we could be better," said Alisappi. "We need to keep putting in more work, and then, eventually, we could be better."

"We have a lot of potential to go further than we did last year." The 2017 edition of the Lasalle Lancers' senior boys volleyball team includes Ben Doucette, Cameron Alisappi, Michael Babcock, Tyrus Cuculick, Julien Giroux, Aiden Lewis, Nathan Scully, Carter Wachnuk, Kurtis Terris, Jason Diotte, Jesse Chisholm, head coach Scott Thomas and assistant coach Ashley Ojalammi.

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