Boys’ volleyball bragging rights for Ross Royals

GUELPH – The Ross Royals have every right to brag about their prowess in boys’ volleyball after they swept the District 10 high school senior and junior boys’ championship matches Friday night in the University of Guelph’s West Gym.

The Royals beat the Bishop Macdonell Celtics 3-0 in both finals as they took the senior match 25-14, 25-19, 25-15 after winning the junior match 25-21, 25-6, 25-16.

It was the first time one school’s teams won both the senior and junior titles in the same year since the Centennial Spartans did it in 2011.

All four teams advance to their respective CWOSSA tournaments, Ross in AAA at Waterloo and Kitchener Thursday and Bishop Mac in AA at Walkerton – senior on Wednesday and Friday and junior on Wednesday and Thursday.

According to lists on the CWOSSA website, Ross has never won a CWOSSA title in boys’ volleyball while Bishop Mac had back-to-back AA senior boys’ title wins in 2007 and 2008.

 

Senior

“I’m so pleased with the way my guys played tonight,” Ross coach Travis Oke said. “This is the best we’ve played all year. We focused on getting better and better and better throughout the match and we really did. We played better the last 10 points than we did the first game. I was so proud of them.”

Oke and the Royals had the simple plan of going with age and experience in the title match and that helped them shut down a Bishop Mac squad that had won two of the three regular-season matches between the teams.

“We focused and I played only Grade 12s today,” Oke said. “I firmly believe you win championships with Grade 12s because they’ve been around for a while and they all played so well for me today. This is the best I’ve seen this team play all year.”

Ross had finished first in the five-team league with a 10-2 record while Bishop Mac was second at 8-4.

The win was Oke’s seventh D10 title win. He had three with the Centennial Spartans before transferring to Ross and he has now guided the Royals to four consecutive league crowns. He’s retiring from teaching at the end of this school year and says this is his last season coaching high school volleyball as he considers his teaching and his coaching as inseparable.

However, he didn’t want to make the title win about him at all.

“I don’t play a single point and I love the response I get from my guys,” he said. “I told them today to focus, focus, focus and get better and better and better and they did. This is a really responsive group of young men.”

As for Bishop Mac, half of their small squad of eight were on the Bishop Mac team that won last year’s D10 junior title.

“We have four back from our junior team so we have four Grade 11s and four Grade 12s this year,” said Bishop Mac coach Brian Burns. “This is everyone who came out. We didn’t make any cuts this year. Being a small school has its challenges, but these guys were committed and they’re a great bunch of kids to coach. They’re all coachable, all showing up all the time. It really wasn’t an issue.”

Left side Braeden Sears of the Royals, who has committed to the University of Guelph and it’s men’s varsity volleyball team for next fall, and Bishop Mac middle Alex Dorling were picked their team’s MVP for the final.

As for CWOSSA, both squads are looking to be competitive and to represent themselves well.

“We’re expecting we have a great chance to win CWOSSA,” Oke said. “If we play like this — these guys played really well and got better so I expect to play well.”

“I hope we can win,” Sears said. “We have to play one team (Waterloo CI) that we’ve lost to twice this year, but hopefully we can – if we play like this, I think we’re going to win for sure.”

As Sears said, the Royals have already played some of their possible CWOSSA opponents.

“We have and we’ve beat a lot of the teams and lost to a couple,” Oke said. “But we’re playing as well now as we’ve ever played.”

As for Bishop Mac, the Celtics feel the regional tournament might be a bit of an unknown.

“Really, it’s hard to say. I don’t know if we’ve seen any of those teams at CWOSSA,” Burns said. “It’s always up in the air. You never know. You can run into a strong team at CWOSSA. We hope to make it in the top two of our pool in the finals on Friday. I think that’s a good goal for us. These guys, I’m confident they’ll find a way to get it done if we’re in the final next Friday.”

 

Junior

The Royals were a little surprised by their sweep of the Celtics in Friday’s final.

“It actually did,” Ross coach Josh Ogden said. “They’re a really good team and they beat us the first game of the season. Since then we’ve beat them twice so we liked our chances, but we knew they’d be really strong. Our game plan was just to keep a lot of pressure on, keep attacking, get the ball into the hands of our best players and play really strong defence.”

Team MVPs for the final were left side Jonah Sutherns of Ross and setter Jackson Malone of Bishop Mac.

For Ogden, this was his first season as head coach of the Ross juniors, although his resume includes previous head-coaching experience with the Centre Wellington Falcons of Fergus.

“I’ve been on the sidelines of volleyball for a few years since coaching in Fergus, but I was really excited to get in and have my own team,” he said.

Ogden might end up being Oke’s replacement with the senior Royals.

“We’ll see about that.” Ogden said. “I kind of like where I am, but we’ll see.”

As for now, the CWOSSA tournament is the focus for both squads.

“We’re looking forward to going to CWOSSA with this momentum,” Ogden said. “We’ve seen a couple of teams from CWOSSA at Kitchener tournaments and they’re really strong – a lot of Ontario-level club players. We’re hoping to have a good day and maybe give some teams a run.”

The D10 championship win was the first for Ross since 2014 and it put an end to Bishop Mac’s two-year hold on the title.

 

  • Guelph Sports Journal