One would hope that the College Notre-Dame Alouettes, Lo-Ellen Park Knights and Lasalle Lancers all made the most of their recent trips to OFSAA.
Between the current labour unrest in the educational sector, and the rapidly evolving impact of the Corona virus, God only knows if there will be much in the way of OFSAA Championships to report on between now and the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
In the meantime, it's nice to know that there are still several recent reasons to celebrate high-school athletic excellence, from a Sudbury point of view.
Advancing to a provincial volleyball final for the first time in school history, the CND Alouettes did not drop even a single set prior to the semi-finals, eventually settling for second place in Walkerton. Notre-Dame would suffer their only loss in the championship affair, bested by the University of Toronto Schools Blues (19-25, 19-25,25-18, 15-25), after taking down the Smithville Christian High-School Storm 24-26, 25-21, 25-27, 25-14, 15-12 in OFSAA Girls "A" Volleyball Championships semi-final play.
Coach Denny Chicoine and company had cruised through pool play with sweeps of the Aldershot School Lions from Burlington (25-18, 25-20), Monseigneur Bruyere Pantheres from London (25-17, 25-21), Nouveau Regard Pavillon Jeunesse-Nord from Cochrane (25-5, 25-15) and the Atikokan Voyageurs (25-16, 25-19).
The SDSSAA finalists kept right on rolling in quarter-final action, upending the Valley Heights Bears from Walsingham, 25-17, 25-8, 25-16. "For our four seniors, it's our last year, so we wanted to go out there swinging, leaving everything out there and making sure that we don't have any regrets on the way home," noted veteran left side Brielle Chicoine, who joins Emma Bissonnette, Emma Lapointe and Katia Legros in the group of graduating athletes.
"This year, when push comes to shove, we push," added Bissonnette. "We do not give up. After the city final loss, we knew that we wanted to fight back and get to OFSAA."
Meanwhile, their dance partners in the city final also medalled, capturing gold on the consolation side of the draw, as Lo-Ellen battled at the OFSAA Girls "AA" Volleyball Championships in Kingsville. The Knights emerged from their pool schedule in third place out of five, defeating both the Fenelon Falls Falcons (25-9, 25-13) and the Kingsville Cavaliers (25-21, 25-22), but falling to the Samuel Genest Lasers from Ottawa (24-26, 11-25) and the Streetsville Tigers from Mississauga (9-25, 16-25).
That setback, however, was the last time the team would taste defeat, outscoring, in succession, the St Joseph Jaguars from Barrie (25-18, 25-22, 24-26, 25-17), the Kingston (CVI) Blues (25-15, 17-25, 26-24, 25-22) and sweeping the Port Perry Rebels (25-22, 25-22, 25-13) in the consolation final.
After competing in the OFSAA "AAA" tournament one year ago following a loss in the city finals to Notre-Dame, Lo-Ellen turned the tables this year, putting themselves on more equal footing as part of the 20-team field at the "AA" event.
"Last year, we went in, knowing that the competition was pretty intense and that our chances weren't great," noted veteran Sidney Melanson, as the team practiced in preparation for OFSAA last week. "We went in last year for the experience. I think this year, we actually have a chance at winning some games and hopefully doing pretty well - knock on wood."
Finally, the Lasalle Lancers boys basketball team overcame some adversity, before bowing out in the consolation semi-final in Windsor. In the opening minute of the first game they would play, starting guard and a key contributor to the dynamic duo (aka - "the twins"), Liam LaPierre, rolled his ankle and was done for the tournament.
Despite his absence, the Lancers bounced Our Lady of Lourdes Crusaders, 47-43, but proved no match for the Riverside Rebels of Windsor, beaten 74-40. Receiving a 25-point effort from Brennan LaPierre and another 17 from Andrew Middleton, the Lancers stayed alive on the consolation draw with a 75-42 victory over the Anderson (CVI) Raiders from Whitby.
Unfortunately, the end of the line would come later that day, as the John Paul II Jaguars from London trimmed the Sudbury city champs 61-54, spelling the end of the high-school careers for the Lasalle starting five that included both of the LaPierre twins (Liam/Brennan), Andrew Middleton, Morgan Byers and Noah Carpino.
Meanwhile, at the OFSAA Wrestling Championships hosted in Sault Ste Marie earlier this month, not only was Jacob Laquerre of College Notre-Dame the only SDSSAA athlete to podium (top six), placing fifth in the 83 kg weight class, but he was also honoured as the Most Sportsmanlike Wrestler of the entire meet.
After dropping a second round match to Brendan Kwarayi (Central Catholic), Laquerre bounced back to eliminate Ethan Froggett (Medway), Redden Jacklin (St Mother Theresa), Arthur Rahmanov (Newtonbrook), Gaven Smith (Superior Heights) and Temituoyo Ugborogho (St Mary's) in finishing fifth, not at all bad for a young man who did not win a single match in his first two OFSAA appearances in 2018 and 2019.
"During the summer (of 2019), I started training with Troop MMA," he explained. "It really improved my wrestling. Wrestling is both a mental game, and a physical game, and Troop MMA really helped my mental game."
"I'm just a much better wrestler," Laquerre added. "They refined my moves. With some stuff, I un-learned it and re-learned it."
Finally, the OFSAA Championships for hockey are still a couple of weeks away, with mixed results, on the NOSSA front, for the local contingent. With the Lo-Ellen Park Knights defending their NOSSA girls title with a 5-0 win in the final over the College Notre-Dame Alouettes, Sudbury will have a pair of female teams taking part in provincials.
Hanna Smith paced the Knights attack with a pair of goals, with singles coming from Julia Hayes, Aoife Mahaffy and Mya Headrick. Kristen Mrozewski recorded 13 saves in preserving the shutout between the pipes as Lo-Ellen avenged a 2-0 loss against CND that kicked off the NOSSA playdowns at the McClelland Arena on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, the St Charles College Cardinals boys team could not duplicate their magical run in the city finals, posting a record of 1-1-1 at NOSSA in North Bay and coming up just shy of a berth at OFSAA.
The memories, however, of a classic battle with the Horizon Aigles, one which would see the Cards take the series three games to win, with all three of their victories coming by just a single goal, two in overtime, are sure to linger for a while.
A 4-3 OT win, last Wednesday night in Walden, culminated an incredible season, as St Charles spotted Horizon a 3-0 first period lead in their final encounter. "It was definitely tough seeing that three on the scoreboard on their side," said Nick Faught, who ended the drama with his second goal of the game with less than two minutes to play in overtime.
"We knew that if we stuck to our game plan, stuck to our systems, that we would definitely get a bounce back - and we did."