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College varsity sport crunch time has arrived

There might still be a couple of months remaining in the post-secondary school year, for most institutions, but when it comes to OCAA varsity athletics, February is clearly "crunch month" for several local squads.

Unfortunately, it's a wrap for the local contingent, with post-season play simply not in the cards for Cambrian Golden Shield and College Boreal Viperes representatives in either badminton or volleyball.

Confederation Secondary graduate and Cambrian freshman Cameron Duff did manage to advance to the quarter-finals of men's singles play at the West Regionals at Humber College, posting a 4-1 record in his pool, but beaten 21-13, 15-21, 15-21 by Sadik Ali of Conestoga in his cross-over match.

Of the remaining Golden Shield entries, only the women's doubles team (Kayleigh Steinke Gauthier / Joanne Tan also managed to hit the win column, besting a Conestoga tandem 21-14, 21-12, as new head coach Jim Duff begins to slowly work the program back towards a level of competitiveness that Cambrian had previously enjoyed.

Destinee Lafond and Paige Skrenski, in ladies singles, the men's duo of Simon Freer and Basil Komatheldo, and the mixed pairing of Vanessa Belanger and Sachin Devasia rounded out the Shield entries this year.

Things proved equally as challenging for the Viperes grouping who were in action at Georgian College in Barrie, taking part in the East Regionals. The duo of Danika Mayer and Kaitlyn Gelinas swept aside the St Lawrence Vikings pairing of Hannah Carswell and Emily Postma, 21-13, 21-17, providing the opportunity for the Boreal assembly to celebrate victory, as the locals finished in fifth place, overall.

Meanwhile, in men's doubles play, Luc Demers and Jonathan Boucher upended Shubham Singh and Preyal Patel from Georgian, 22-20, 9-21, 22-20, matching the 1-4 record posted by the Boreal ladies. Joining the doubles teams in action, this year, for new head coach Julien Belanger, were Zachary Brunet and Elliot Prudhomme (men's singles).

All four of the Sudbury-based OCAA volleyball squads conclude their 2019-2020 season with visits to the homes of the Niagara Knights and Conestoga Condors, with the entire quartet already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

With a pair of wins already to their credit and set victories against the likes of Conestoga and St Clair also in the books, the Boreal lads would love to squeeze out just a little more success of the season that has featured some promising signs under the leadership of veteran attackers Michel Ayotte and Stephen Lefaive.

The pair were front and centre in a tough home-stand last weekend versus Humber (16-0) and Fanshawe (9-8), with Ayotte (19 kills) and Lefaive (6) joined on the offensive stats chart by the likes of Dave McLaren (3) and Jaden Chouinard (2), while Dylan Lacroix stepped in to spell starting setter Kevin Longpre, as well, for a stint against the Falcons.

Having taken sets against only Boreal and Conestoga, coach Tom Sutton and the Shield men will have one last shot at bumping up their total this coming weekend, with several rookies on hand to join in the last hurrah for the local duo of Alex Tegman and Josh Kneblewski.

Freshman Dalton Kipp would lead all Cambrian players with seven kills on the weekend, with Kneblewski adding four, and also showing the way in total digs, with 11. Also shining, defensively, for the Shield, were Zack Kategiannis and Liam Southwind, with ten digs apiece.

With a record of 3-13, the Cambrian Golden Shield women would come closest to breaking through, ultimately skewered by tough losses to the likes of the Niagara Knights (25-23, 16-25, 25-18, 25-27, 11-15), the Mohawk Mountaineers (25-22, 25-21, 11-25, 17-25, 9-15) and the St Clair Saints (27-25, 13-25, 14-25, 13-25).

Through it all, perennial all-star Isabelle Rivest has continued to shine, posting a stat line that included 8 kills, 31 digs and a pair of blocks, all while serving as the team setter as the Shield managed to steal a set from the powerhouse that is the Humber Hawks last weekend.

Maggie Little continues to show signs of encouraging progress, given her lack of elite level volleyball experience, prior to her arrival at Cambrian, the natural athlete drilling no less than ten kills against Humber and Fanshawe. Katelyn Albert, Jade Gauthier and Jordan Phillips, all with five kills each, also chipped in on the attack.

As for the 0-16 Viperes women, their best chance to secure at least a set victory will come this Saturday, Boreal on the road to face the 2-14 Conestoga Condors. If it is to happen, coach Jamie Erven will need Karine Gauthier and Melanie Leger to be on top of their games, the tandem combining for a dozen kills last weekend opposite the teams that currently hold down first and second place in the OCAA West Division.

Finally, a shout-out out to the College Boreal Viperes men's extramural hockey team, which went toe to toe last month in London with some of the very best (and much larger) schools in the province. Boreal would drop three straight games by just a single goal, edged 3-2 by the Durham Lords, falling 5-4, in a shootout, to the Humber Hawks, and clipped 2-1 by the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks.

Coaches Alain Goulet and Jean-Pierre Belanger oversaw a roster that included Martin Bouthillier, Sylvain Gravel, Shane Schuurman, Marco Dussault, Jesse Casonato, Dimitri Levesque, Jeremi Lord, Zachary Carriere, Matt Robert, Sebastien Despatie, Kalem Gillissie, Mathieu Fraser, Damien Courchesne, Shawn Brooks, Felix Morissette, Matthew Allard and Derek Mageau.

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