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Six straight trips to OFSAA - but a different team at Lasalle

Six straight OFSAA appearances for the Lasalle Lancers senior boys volleyball team - but each and every year, with a slightly different team.

"I'm pretty confident with our team," said 18 year old veteran Kurtis Terris, who will be making his third trek to provincials later this week, travelling to Stratford, site of the 2019 OFSAA "AA" Boys Volleyball Championship.

"It's been a little bit challenging in the city, because other teams have been getting better, but I'm fairly confident in our team's ability to do well at OFSAA," Terris added.

"With Jeff's team (Jeff Walton - now at Dalhousie), we started in grade nine and they had a four year cycle with me," noted Lasalle head coach Dale Beausoleil. "When they were in their fourth year, that's the year they won their bronze (medals)."

"This is the fourth year for this team. For a lot of them, it's their fourth year with me - it's hopefully where they are peaking."

While the Lo-Ellen Park Knights pushed the Lancers to four sets in the city final, the long-time powerhouse went the minimum in claiming a NOSSA banner in North Bay. Despite not getting the chance to participate in as many high end out of town tournaments as Lasalle sometimes does, this particular group has shown steady improvement, regardless.

"Our passing has gotten a lot better by playing Lo-Ellen and Horizon, just because they have really tough serves," said Terris. "It's what we work on most in practice. Lasalle has always been sort of an offensive team."

"We work on defence, obviously, we're just not as good at it, so we tend to rely on our offense to really push us over."

Another fifth year Lancer, Jesse Chisholm has really taken the heart the need to focus on the defensive aspect of the game, making a key positional switch in tandem with the move of David Pigozzo from libero to setter.

"I've played middle my first four years here," said Chisholm. "But I was an undersized middle, being only six feet tall, and we didn't have a libero for this year, so I asked if I could play there, and he (Beausoleil) said sure."

"Serve receive was really tough for me, at the beginning," Chisholm added. "I still have a little issue now, because I have never serve received before." Thankfully, he is more than willing to put in the work, driven by a personal standard that leaves very little margin for error.

"I find it hard not so much to pass the ball, but to get a perfect pass, which is obviously what you're going for," he said. "It's a little frustrating when you don't make that perfect pass. It has to be pretty perfect for me to say that it's a perfect pass."

That end goal is key, given the assessment provided by coach Beausoleil, both for his own team as well as some of the top-end contenders. "We're seeded ninth, which is fine, because we didn't go to any tournaments out of town," he explained.

"As for expectations, there's always expectations, any time you have a team that is competing. I would love for these guys to come back with a medal. But then there's Eden (Eden High School Eagles in St Catharines - 2018 champions), and you've got Franco (Franco-Cite Faucons from Ottawa - 2018 silver medal winners), and the team from Windsor (Essex DHS Red Raiders - seeded third)."

"There's some really strong teams. We're going to have to play the best we've ever played to get in the mix," Beausoleil continued. "Is it possible? Absolutely. Expectations? To go and play our best."

In the end, the man who has been coaching the sport since prior to his own graduation from Confederation Secondary School in Val Caron suggested that there really is no magical formula to what is required to compete with the very best teams in the province.

"Take passing," he said. "For some people, passing comes easy, just like any other skill. Some people are natural passers, some people struggle with it. It really is the thousands and thousands of reps that you need to really get good at it."

"Our kids are starting to play rep (club ball), but those kids down south have played club since they were young, those kids play beach in the summer, and our kids don't. I think it's great for our kids to go down to club tournaments and see what they have to do to be at that level - hitting the weight room in the summer, getting the extra touches."

"You need to do other things than just play volleyball in September, October and November."

The young men taking on the challenge of trying to secure a medal at the 2019 OFSAA AA Boys Volleyball Championship for Lasalle Secondary School include Zak Thompson, Jason Diotte, Nicholas Burke, Parker Farstad, Kepler Salt, Austin Pawluk, Jesse Chisholm, Braedan Pakkala, Ian Mackay, Aidan Lowe, Kurtis Terris, David Pigozzo and Cameron Showers.

The Lancers open play Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., facing the KCVI (Kingston Collegiate & Vocational Institute) Blues (#8), back on the floor three hours later opposite the Jean Vanier CHS Jaguars (#19) from Richmond Hill.

The Friday schedule pits the NOSSA champs against the afore-mentioned Essex Red Raiders as well as the Assumption CSS Crusaders (#14) in Burlington.

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