The SDSSAA senior division A boys volleyball final might be more prestigious, but the junior match-up was way, way more exciting.Division A - Boys Volleyball
The Lasalle Jr Lancers and Horizon Jr Aigles treated the filled gymnasium in New Sudbury to a five set classic as the Orange and Black completed the senior-junior sweep with a 25-15, 22-25, 27-25, 19-25, 15-10 victory over their visitors from Val Caron.
In a contest that clearly featured the hitting talents of Davis Mackinnon and Will Mackey from Lasalle and the Horizon duo of Greyson Seifert and Ryan Rinaldi, momentum changes were constant, with the Lancers overcoming a 24-21 deficit to capture the third set while the Aigles clawed their way back from 10-13 in the fourth to force a fifth set.
“Everyone on their team (Horizon) has a lot of different skills - we don’t know what’s coming,” acknowledged Mackey, who was dominant in the opening set, then keyed upon for a while before really asserting himself again with the game on the line. “We had to stick to our game plan and not play theirs.”
The talented 15 year-old was forced to adjust, mid-stream, as the Aigles altered their defensive approach as the game wore on. “When I am going up to hit, if I have a big block there or anything like that and lose a point, then I need to read the court the next play,” said Mackey.
“If I see a spot open, I am aiming for that. Sometimes I will tell our setter not to set me. If they are cheating me, they won’t be able to get to the set.”
"I am really just deciding as I am going up," Mackey added. "When I see the block coming at me, I am reading the play and deciding whether to roll the shot or not."
The Lasalle Jr Lancers team also starred Lucas Watson, Reid Zakamarko, Mackenzie Alisappi, Hayden Quevillion, Alazar Stevens, Ethan Dobson, Nathan Radey, Christian Wreegbo, Adam Clement, Bryce Broglio and head coach Mikaio Walia, the latter who is clearly a disciple of his former coach.
"He (Walia) watches the game the same way," said Mackey, who was groomed at Northeastern Elementary under Lasalle Lancers' senior coach Dale Beausoleil. "Everything that Mr B teaches him, he teaches us."
The opening contest would see the Lasalle Lancers claim their eighth senior title in the past nine years, crunching the Lo-Ellen Park Knights 25-17, 25-13, 25-23 after getting the better of the Horizon Aigles in semi-final action last week.
While there’s little doubt that the likes of Noah Squires, Oak Runia and Cale Bast are all more than capable of pounding the ball, it was the Lancers’ ability to retrieve ball after ball on their own side of the net that was equally impressive.
“Our coach, Mr B, really prioritizes defense over offense,” said Squires. “Even in practice, we have to do everything on defense before we do our offense. When we’re on the court, we’re always thinking defense first.”
While there is definitely a veteran presence with the 2022 Senior Lancers, the team did assimilate a new setter in James Welsh, with everyone hitting their stride at just the right time.
"My last setter, we had been together for four years; I knew exactly where his sets were going to be," explained Squires. "With James, it was totally different. Thankfully, we've improved a lot, just connecting."
The remainder of the Lasalle team takes in Owen Pawluk, Chad Tullio, Damien Quevillion, Ashton Eadie, Cameron Potvin, Hayden Radey, Tyler Thompson, André Boulet, Ethan Lalonde and Quinn Bardell.
Looking to make yet another return trip to OFSAA, the Lancers will join the Knights in North Bay on Thursday, contesting the NOSSA championship in a bracket that also includes both Chippewa and St Joseph’s Scollard Hall.Division B - Boys Volleyball
With a solid core of returning talent, the Hanmer Sabres defended their SDSSAA Senior Boys Division B crown at home on Monday, overcoming a 19-25 first set loss to the Bishop Carter Gators and taking the next three, 25-11, 25-8, 25-23.
“Our team is really strong; we’ve basically been together the whole time,” noted 17 year-old veteran Nathan Cotnoir. “We don’t get too many new players. We’ve basically been the same team forever so we expected to do well this year.”
While he admitted that the hitting acumen of the Gators caused some challenges in the early going, forcing the Sabres to seal their blocks better and communicate to ensure proper back-up coverage for swings that went wide of the blocks, Cotnoir also noted that offensively speaking, the Hanmer side is an impressive one.
“We have a lot of power, people who can really jump and hit the ball straight down,” he said. “And we’re very good on tips - and our sets are good too.”
After having missed out on a NOSSA appearance due to Covid regulations last fall, coach Anne Blanchette and company are more than a little anxious for the road trip that will take them to Mattawa on Thursday.
“I think it will be a nice challenge and I think that’s something our team is looking for,” said team captain Jacob Hogue. “We’ve been together since “maternelle” (kindergarten). We’re best of friends, you could say. It will be nice to all go as a team - and it will be a nice change of scenery.”
The Hanmer senior roster also welcomes aboard Martin Boisvert. Mathieu Champagne, Joshia Montpellier, Alec Richard, Cody Wahl, Félix Aubin, Kaleb Dupuis, Brady Soucy, Maegan Lavigne and Kiersten Lafave, most of whom will immediately transition to Sabres' basketball right after NOSSA.
Much like the division A showdowns, the B junior final proved to be even more competitive than the older lads, with Bishop Carter securing at least one banner on the night, slipping past the Sacré-Coeur Griffons 16-25, 25-16, 25-17, 18-25, 15-13.
The championship team, which is coached by Valentina Del Re with help from both Laura Tagliafierro and Alex Shepherd, has a 2022 lineup of Anthony Bertrand, Landen Duval, Tristan Imgrund, Isaac Jeanveau, London Lajeunesse, Jack Landry, Tristan Larose, Lucas Lessard, Brody McHugh, Gavin Patterson, Rowan Smith and Aydan Turgeon.