Ross volleyball seniors avenge 2016 title loss with return trip

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – The Ross Royals felt they gained a bit of revenge on the Centennial Spartans when they walked off their own court after sweeping the Spartans 3-0 in the District 10 high school senior girls’ volleyball semifinals Wednesday.

The Spartans jumped to an early 17-11 lead in the first set before Ross rallied to win 25-22.

“We dug deep,” Stedman said. “Really, the pep talk we gave them was that they were the reigning champions and they put us out last year in the finals. This is our opportunity to kind of get, for the lack of better words, a little bit of revenge and knock them out. That kind of lit the fire. They tried to break us, but we bent, but didn’t fully break.”

The Spartans had edged the Royals 3-2 in last year’s final. Centennial had also welcomed Ross back from this season’s Christmas break with a 3-0 win Jan. 11, the only loss of the season for the Royals.

Wednesday, the Royals took the final two sets by 25-18 and 25-16 scores.

Ross-Centennial has become a heated rivalry in senior girls’ volleyball. They’ve faced each other for the D10 crown three times in the last four seasons and the last time a league final didn’t involve either Ross or Centennial was 2008 when the Bishop Macdonell Celtics swept the Centre Wellington Falcons 3-0.

“We’ve played them in the final during the last seven years more than anybody else,” Stedman said. “Losing to them hurts more than anybody else and our girls know that. They remember the heartbreak they had last year and so it just gave us that extra little push to work harder.”

Since 1977, Centennial has claimed D10 honours 12 times while Ross and Bishop Mac have won the league title eight times apiece. Six of Bishop Mac’s wins came before 1991. Of the other schools, the Guelph CVI Green Gaels have won it five times, Orangeville Bears three times, Centre Wellington twice and the St. James Lions once. The Lourdes Crusaders have never won it.

St. James will be looking for their second D10 senior girls’ volleyball championship win when they play Ross in Friday’s final after the Lions defeated the Guelph CVI Green Gaels 3-2 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

The previous title win for St. James came in 1996.

Wednesday, St. James won the tight match with GCVI 20-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 15-13.

“Either St. James or GC, they’re both strong teams that are actually really different,” Stedman said before knowing the result of the Lions-Gaels semifinal. “They have different strengths in their offence.”

Ross and St. James finished the regular season one-two with Ross first at 13-1 and St. James right behind at 12-2. The two losses for the Lions were against the Royals as Ross won 3-1 Dec. 1 and 3-1 last Thursday in the senior gathering at Ross that completed the regular season.

The league was tight at the top this season as parity is a trend in D10 sports this school year.

“The top four could’ve won any night,” Stedman said. “We got lucky a few times when other teams had players missing, but we also had trouble when one of our best players got hurt. It was definitely up and down and I was never going into a game (involving a top-four team) feeling fully confident and I wasn’t fully confident today knowing that Centennial could bring their A game. When they’re on, they’re on. They’re good.”

Parity makes the teams better as they don’t have many games they can relax a little in.

“It makes it a lot more fun,” Stedman said. “It’s never fun when a team completely dominates and no one else can participate.

“You can see the difference in our team when they’re playing a team like Centennial or GC or St. James. Our girls are on and we’ve had our best games against the best teams.”

Friday’s final at the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre is to start at 8 p.m.

JUNIOR

The Bishop Macdonell Celtics and St. James Lions are to meet in Friday’s junior final after they posted semifinal victories Wednesday.

St. James swept the Lourdes Crusaders 3-0, winning 25-13, 25-15, 25-14.

Bishop Mac slipped by the Orangeville Bears 3-2 with a 24-26, 25-22, 25-23, 16-25, 15-5 win.

The Celtics finished atop the league at the end of the regular season with an 11-3 record while St. James and the Centre Wellington Falcons finished with identical 10-4 marks, the Lions getting second via the tie-breaking procedures. Centre Wellington was upset by Orangeville in the quarter-finals.

Bishop Mac and St. James split their regular-season meetings with the Celtics winning 3-2 at home Dec. 7 and the Lions winning 3-0 at home Jan. 18.

The final Friday at the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre is to begin at 6 p.m.