Royals, Celtics claim D10 boys’ volleyball crowns

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – In all reality, just another typical District 10 high school senior boys’ volleyball match between the Ross Royals and Centennial Spartans.

Whenever the two teams get together, it’s usually a tight match and more often than not all five sets are needed to decide a winner.

That was certainly the case in Friday’s championship match as the Ross Royals rallied from a two-set deficit to take this year’s title, their third in a row, with a 3-2 victory over the Spartans at the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre.

“I always like to win three straight,” Ross coach Travis Oke said. “This is not good for my newly-developed ulcer at all.”

“We always have confidence in how we can play,” Ross co-captain and left-side Braeden Sears. “We were ready for everything and we came back even though we had a deficit at the beginning.”

Sears was his team’s MVP for the game.

“I just tried to focus, just like all the other guys,” he said. “I’m just one of the players out there and I just tried to contribute to the team.”

Centennial won the first two sets by 25-21 and 25-23 scored before the Royals started to roll.

“We weren’t playing too well,” Oke said. “What I did on our timeouts was point out to them that if we started playing well, we could change this match. And during the timeouts, whether it was their timeout or our timeout, we talked about whether we had improved over the last five or 10 points and there was a real trend of us improving. Even though we lost Game 2, we made it closer and we closed the gap and I thought we were actually playing a lot better at the end of Game 2 which carried into Games 3, 4 and 5.”

Ross took the third set 25-20 and then forced the tie-breaker set with a 25-15 win in the fourth set. The fifth set was all Ross as the Royals scored the first five points and eventually won 15-5.

“Volleyball is such a funny sport with momentum,” Oke said. “At one point it was 11-1 and we’re not 10 points better than Centennial. But it can just happen. You get into a bad rotation and another team gets into a good one and unlike any other sport, it can change in a hurry. We’re just fortunate to be on the good side of that run.”

“Everyone just focused up and made sure we made less mistakes, cleaned the mistakes up,” Sears said.

Centennial’s game MVP was Jason Zha.

Being the championship match against familiar foes brought a little extra pressure to the match.

“It was a good game. There was a lot of fans out so, obviously, it was going to be a lot of pressure on the guys,” Sears said. “But I think everyone performed well.”

The Royals advance to next week’s CWOSSA AAA tournament that is set for Thursday and Friday. Preliminary play Thursday and Friday’s semifinals are to be played at the University of Waterloo’s Columbia Ice Fields facility while the final Friday at 7:30 p.m. is to be held at Kitchener’s Forest Heights CI.

“We’ve played some of the CWOSSA teams at a tournament,” Sears said. “Besides that, we’re just going out looking to take a CWOSSA championship, too.”

Junior

The Bishop Macdonell Celtics remained undefeated as they won their second consecutive D10 junior title with a 3-1 victory over the Centennial Spartans.

The Celtics won 26-24, 25-15, 25-27, 25-18.

“The guys were a little nervous on both sides for the first whole game, at least,” Bishop Mac coach Brian Burns said. “Once they got that out of their system, the level of play started to improve. It was OK. I’ve seen both teams play better, but it was the result we wanted.”

The nerves likely arose to the surface because it was the championship game and it was held at the GGAC.

“A lot because it’s here,” Burns said. “We brought the boys out to watch a university game last Friday, so they’ve seen the venue, they’re quite impressed and they’re a little bit overwhelmed getting here tonight knowing they’re the ones who are the centre of attention. But it’s a great opportunity for them to be in this facility and just following the format of the university players. It’s something to aspire to.”

Bishop Mac had won all 12 of its regular-season matches to get a bye in the quarter-finals and they swept the Ross Royals in Wednesday’s semifinals.

“It’s been a great season,” Burns said. “It’s not a surprise, but we’re very happy to be undefeated at this point although being undefeated going into a final game can be a little dangerous.

“There were a few games earlier this year where we had to come from behind so that helped us prepare for a little adversity.”

While the Celtics won the final, they were impressed with the showing from their opponents, feeling that the Spartans were a well-coached group that displayed good court-coverage and that made Centennial a hard team to score points against.

Including the playoffs, the Celtics have won 22 consecutive D10 junior matches. Their last loss was Oct. 17, 2017.

“We’re continuing to improve,” Burns said. “On this team we’ve got eight kids who have never played high school volleyball, but we’ve also got a core of four kids who are good leaders on this team. They’ve come a long way and they continue to improve.”

MVPs for the game were James Amican of Bishop Mac and Jackson Wallace of Centennial.

Both the Celtics and Spartans move on to CWOSSA tournaments in the next week.

The Celtics are to play in the AA tournament Wednesday and Thursday at Simcoe and the Spartans are to play in the AAA tournament Thursday and Friday at Waterloo and Kitchener.

“We have no idea what we’ll see there,” Burns said of the AA tournament. “We’ve never seen any of those teams in tournaments so we’ll just play our game and hope for the best result.”