Familiar foes Royals, Spartans in senior volleyball final
GUELPH – And now for something totally the same. The Centennial Spartans and Ross Royals will meet in the District 10 high school senior boys’ volleyball final for the fourth consecutive year Friday night at the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre.
Both advanced to this year’s final with semifinal victories Wednesday as the Royals defeated the Guelph CVI Green Gaels 3-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-20, 25-12) and the Spartans swept the Lourdes Crusaders 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-19).
While the Royals and Spartans have a heated rivalry, it’s a healthy one.
“I have my guys say all the time, ‘You know what? I think we’d be really good friends with them,” Ross coach Travis Oke said. “I think both teams respect each other. Both teams know we’re playing another group of good guys and we’re really looking forward to that match.”
For the Royals, the third set of their semifinal match Wednesday was the key to their victory as they rebounded from an early deficit for the win.
“We were down 12-4 and I reminded the guys that we were going to be here until probably 6 o’clock and that was plenty of time to start thinking about playing well and to stop thinking about what the score is in the game,” Ross coach Travis Oke said of a speech in a timeout in the third set of the match that started at 4 p.m. “My guys have been really good at that all year. They focus in on ‘Let’s play well.’ And we tried to build momentum. Whether we lost Game 3 or not, we were trying to build momentum and we ended up getting a lot of momentum. I think we outscored them 45-15 in the last half hour of volleyball.”
“We fell apart a little at the beginning, but we pulled it back out,” Ross captain Owyn McInnis said. “There was a good run we got on serves and we came back and pulled that one out and it gave us some momentum and we came into Game 4 and won it.”
Despite falling behind in the third set, the Royals weren’t concerned that they might drop the match.
“No chance,” McInnis said. “We were a little bit wary at the beginning, but we just calmed down and got our wits about us and came back and did what we know how to do – won the game.”
Ross will enter this year’s final as the two-time defending champion as the Royals defeated Centennial 3-1 in last year’s final and 3-0 in 2016.
The Spartans, who won 3-0 in 2015, will be making their 10th consecutive appearance in the championship match. And you have to go to early in the century to find a senior final that didn’t involve either Centennial or Ross as one or the other has been in every senior final since at least 2003.
Centennial finished atop the league at 11-1 following this year’s regular season. Ross was second at 10-2, GCVI third at 8-4 and Lourdes fourth at 7-5.
The Spartans and Royals split their regular-season matches, both winning at home. The other loss for Ross came last week against GCVI.
“Two starters (Braden Sears and Aidan Nelson) were injured last week when we played GC,” Oke said. “They didn’t play in our quarter-final either. We got one back (Sears) today and the second (Nelson) came off the bench and did really well.”
Despite the last week’s setback, the Royals learned things they could use against the Gaels this week.
“My favourite part of the game is the strategy,” Oke said. “We went over their rotations in pretty good detail yesterday in practice and today at lunch.”
The Royals also defeated the Spartans in Centennial’s tournament.
“It’ll be a good game Friday,” McInnis said. “We have the confidence, we just have to put everything together.”
“We know each other really well,” Oke said. “We know what they’re really good at and they know what we’re really good at. Adam (Wallace) is a really good coach over there. They’ll be ready for us.”
Game time Friday is around 8 p.m. as it follows the junior final.
The Bishop Macdonell Celtics will be looking to remain as junior champs in Friday’s final against the Centennial Spartans.
Last year’s championship win by Bishop Mac was its first junior title since 1981.
Centennial will be looking to lift the championship plaque in victory for the first time since 2013.
In Wednesday’s semifinals, Bishop Mac swept the Ross Royals 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-20) and Centennial edged the Centre Wellington Falcons 3-2 (28-26, 25-21, 17-25, 20-25, 15-9).
Bishop Mac marched undefeated through the regular season, winning all 12 of its games including 3-1 and 3-0 wins over the Spartans. Centre Wellington was second at 8-4, Centennial third at 7-5 thanks to winning the tie-breaker with fourth-place Ross (7-5).
Friday’s final is to start at 6 p.m.