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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
Lancers need to play with a sense of urgency
by Randy Pascal

Like most high-school athletes making their final appearance at OFSAA, the Lasalle Lancers boys volleyball duo of Michael Babcock and Cameron Alisappi fully understand the sense of urgency that accompanies one final kick at the can.

The key, for their team, like most, is ensuring that the same mindset is also prevalent right across the roster.

If nothing else, the Lancers who still have the opportunity to build upon the experience that is the 2018 OFSAA "AA" Boys Volleyball Championships in Sydenham are certainly saying all the right things.

"I feel like we have our best chance to get gold this year," noted right side attacker, Jason Diotte. "Last year, I felt that some of the teams were better than they are this year. I like this team."

A 17 year year grade 12 long-time middle converted to the outside this season, Diotte has already confirmed that he will return in 2019. He is currently among the half dozen of returnees from the squad that captured "antique bronze" (four place finish) last year in Brockville.

He is also filled with optimism based on the belief, in part, that the 2018 version of the city championship team has explored a few more avenues to success on the court. "At NOSSA, I was really confident that we could get their middle to go for a shoot, so I had a lot of one on ones and I scored," he explained.

"We do plays like that to open up our hitters and get easy points." Such is the volleyball IQ of a Dale Beausoleil coached squad. Making his first trip to OFSAA volleyball (he attended OFSAA championships in nordic skiing and track and field in previous years), 16 year old grade 10 power hitter Kepler Salt recalls the first time things really came together, in a very big way, on the court.

"It was the end of grade 10, at NOSSA," Salt recalled. "My setter, David (Pigozzo), we ran a ball called "eleven". We're not really supposed to, because they're very risky, they're really quick, but we just ran it and I connected perfectly with it and that was the moment I felt that I wasn't just in gym class, hitting the ball over the net."

"I felt like I was actually doing something with the ball. Even he (Pigozzo) said that it felt like he was pushing the ball into my hands instead of just putting it up." Although a member of the NOSSA championship junior Lancer team last fall, Salt was well aware of the prowess of the team that came within a whisker of cracking the podium at provincials.

That said, he loves how this crew has transitioned given the natural turnover in the lineup. "We are all hitting so much better," said Salt. "Jason has stepped up, Cameron and Kurtis (Terris) have stepped up. Tyrus (Cuculick) was here last year and he had a main role."

"Jason didn't get as many balls. This year, he is getting a lot more balls - and our grade 11 players are kind of holding our own." Though his teammate might have noticed his improvement on the attack, Diotte believes that his most critical area of progress might well have come with another skill-set entirely.

"Passing," he said. "When you're a middle, you usually get "liberoed" out. I was a pretty awful passer before, but I've gotten a lot better this year. I have to focus on getting low, for sure. That's probably my biggest thing when I am passing."

Heading into play Thursday evening, the Lancers have very little wiggle room. The NOSSA "AA" champs stopped the St Mary Thunder from Cobourg (seeded 17th) 25-20, 25-16, but were upset by the host Sydenham Golden Eagles (just outside of Kingston) 21-25, 20-25.

The locals will now need to sweep both the Essex Red Raiders (seeded 7th) and the Monsignor Percy Johnson Jaguars (seeded 10th), from Toronto, in order to advance to the championship playoff round.

The balance of the Lasalle Lancers' team roster includes Jesse Chisholm, Parker Farstad, Nicholas Burke, Kyle Brouillette and Logan Nicholls.

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