Two left standing in D10 senior and junior girls volleyball

GUELPH – The championship combatants are decided in both the District 10 high school senior and junior girls’ volleyball leagues and a pair of teams knocked out in last year’s semifinals will be looking to knock off the defending champions.

The senior final pits the defending champion Guelph CVI Green Gaels against the Ross Royals while the junior final matches reigning champion Ross against the Bishop Macdonell Celtics.

In Thursday’s senior semifinals, the Gaels defeated the St. James Lions 3-1 (25-13, 25-20, 18-25, 25-20) and Ross swept the Orangeville Bears 3-0 (25-20, 25-8, 25-22).

The semifinals involved the teams that finished the regular season in the top four as GCVI was at 12-1, Ross at 10-3, Orangeville at 9-4 and St. James at 7-6.

GCVI had swept both of its matches with St. James during the regular season while Ross and Orangeville had split their matches, a 3-1 win by the Bears in Orangeville in the first match back from the Christmas break giving the Royals all the motivation they needed in the semifinal.

“We were ready,” Ross co-coach Renee Rees said. “Mentally and physically we were hungry because we lost to them last time. They just wanted redemption and they got it. They just played awesome. It was amazing. That’s the best we’ve seen them all year.”

The Royals made a few mental notes from the regular-season loss to the Bears that they could use if they faced them again.

“We changed some things up,” Rees said. “I don’t want to give too much away, but we did change some things up and it worked in our favour. Our middles are coming along blocking and that was a huge thing we needed today.”

This week’s snow days meant the semifinals were pushed back a day and it also took away any practice times for the teams. That, though, didn’t have a huge affect on the Royals.

“I think they were just so pumped and excited that they didn’t care (about the delay),” Rees said. “They were like ‘If we don’t play today, we want to play tomorrow again and then in the final.’ I think they were just ready, it didn’t matter how many days they had off.”

With the final set for the day after the semifinals, neither the Royals not the Gaels will have much time for on-court preparation for the championship match.

“We have little strategies that we’ve talked about,” Ross co-coach Julie Stedman said. “Every game I feel we approach the same way. When somebody has a big hitter like GC has and like Orangeville has, you try to isolate them and make it so they can’t attack. Our girls have become very good at seeing the court and being able to adjust and us as coaches, we’re trying to pair up our strengths against their strengths. I think we’re ready. Honestly at this point the girls could tell us what our strategy should be because they’ve increased their volleyball IQs so much.”

Playing the final at the U of G does bring a little more pressure on top of the pressure already associated with a championship match.

“You’re playing somewhere you haven’t played before,” Stedman said. “You’re playing somewhere where there are stands on the ends of the court so you’re seeing people. There’s a little more distraction.”

And there’s also the pressure of playing a defending champion, a team that lost one match during the regular season – a 3-2 loss to Orangeville last week. GCVI took both of its regular-season matches with the Royals, winning 3-1 at home in the season opener Nov. 27 and 3-2 at Ross Dec. 20 in the match before the Christmas break.

The loss to Orangeville and the 3-2 win over Ross were the only two five-set matches the Gaels played during their regular season. They swept seven of their matches and won the other four by 3-1 scores.

“I feel that GC is just some kind of giant because they really haven’t lost much since last year and they are the reigning champions,” Stedman said. “There’s that whole heavy idea there that we are the underdogs coming in. The good news is that I feel our girls thrive on that. They really, really push themselves and they like to spoil the party. As a coach, this is the position I’d rather be in. We’ve gone into the finals undefeated and we’ve lost and it is the sickest feeling. But (this year) we have nothing to lose. We have nowhere to go but up so let’s just go all out.”

In Thursday’s junior semifinals, Ross swept St. James 3-0 (25-10, 25-9, 25-14) and Bishop Mac swept GCVI 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-20).

Ross had beaten St. James twice during the regular season, both by 3-0 scores including one last week. Bishop Mac and GCVI had split their regular-season matches, both posting 3-2 wins on their home courts.

The Royals also took both their regular-season meetings with Bishop Mac, winning both 3-1.

Both Ross and Bishop Mac will move on to CWOSSA junior tournaments, the Royals in AAA and the Celtics in AA.

Both of Friday’s D10 finals are set to be played in the West Gym in the University of Guelph’s Mitchell Athletics Centre. That’s the gym that was home to the U of G’s varsity Gryphons before the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre was opened. The GGAC isn’t available as both the men’s and women’s varsity Gryphons have OUA league tilts Friday night.

The D10 junior final is slated for 6 p.m. with the senior final following at approximately 8 p.m.

 

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