St. Marys Junior boys volleyball team became the first DCVI boys volleyball team to win the Huron-Perth championship since 1997.
Salukis accomplished that feat with a 3-0 sweep of St. Mikes Warriors in front of a packed gymnasium at DCVI last Thursday afternoon.
The team of 13 Grade 9 and 10s’ march to gold began on Sept. 4 and consisted of 31 practices for a total of almost 60 hours in the gym, four tournaments, 10 league games, and a total of 56 sets played, coach Ian Moore outlined.
Coming into the season, the DCVI juniors were a combination of seasoned vets, several who play club volleyball in Stratford, and first-time players. First-year players included setter Sam Triemstra, power hitters Marcel Scheele and Jacob Ford, right-side hitter Scott Weslan, and middles Brock Daum and Jake Bukich.
All five rookies played a significant role in helping the team finish the season off with a league record of 27-3 and home-court advantage in the finals.
The Jr. ‘Lukes reached the H-P final after winning both their semi-final and quarter-finals games in Stratford on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
In their semi-final match, the team defeated St. Anne’s Eagles in three sets -- 25-6, 25-19 and 25-14.
Later on that day, Salukis came up against Stratford Northwestern. The team continued their winning ways, defeating Huskies in four sets -- 25-15, 30-32, 25-12 and 25-8.
H-P final in St. Marys
With those two wins, Salukis came up against Stratford St. Mikes Warriors, the team that had finished second in league play with a record of 26-4. The finals--held in St. Marys Thursday--were a best-of-five match that would be the fourth match for the two teams this season and by far the most exciting.
In the opening set, with a gym filled to capacity, both teams were obviously very nervous and adrenaline levels very high with the first several points resulting from missed serves.
Salukis seemed very tense playing in front of such of a large home crowd. With St. Mikes setting some strong blocks in the opening rallies, St. Marys offence and confidence seemed to flounder allowing St. Mikes to take a significant lead of 16-10.
After a time-out by St. Marys coach Ian Moore, Salukis seemed to settle down and it was right-side hitter Jake Triemstra, with two big kills, and a big middle attack from middle Kyle Fennema, that sparked the DCVI offence and a steady climb back into the game.
With Warriors holding a comfortable lead of 18-11, it was some aggressive serving from Sam Thorup and Jake Triemstra that confused the St. Mikes passers resulting in the Warriors being unable to run an effective offence.
St. Marys collected five points to St. Mikes’ two and the score was 20-16 in favour of the Warriors.
Throughout the match, it was Hayden Moore and Sam Thorup that did double duty as both setters and power hitters.
When in the front row, Thorup and Moore swung from the power position, but when in the back row ran the offence as the team’s setters.
St. Marys middle Matt Wrigley ran some great fakes to freeze St. Mikes blockers, allowing St. Marys hitters Thorup and Mitch Duncan to swing against only one blocker. With great defence in the back row, Salukis pulled to within two of the Warriors.
With the score 24-22 for St. Mikes and a potential loss for the opening set, it was front-row players Thorup, Triemstra and Fennema that put a wall up defensively and Grade 9 Matt Wrigley, with ice in his veins, who served four great serves that kept the St. Mikes passers off balance allowing St. Marys’ defence to shut down the Warriors.
Shutting the door on St. Mikes when they only needed one point to win electrified the crowd, giving St. Marys a winning score of 26-24.
In the second set, Salukis again had a bit of a rocky start allowing Warriors to grab an early lead that they held onto until late in the match.
Just before the halfway point, St. Mikes held a three-point lead of 12-9 but St. Marys started a steady climb back into the set.
Tied at 16-16, some big kills from Moore--swinging from the power position--gave Salukis the lead and they held it for the remainder of the match. It was from this point on that the St. Marys defence made some huge plays from a variety of players.
In the front row, middle blockers Matt Wrigley and Kyle Fennema shut down the Warriors hitters, especially their middles, forcing them to tip to the waiting defenders.
On the right side, it was Jake Triemstra and Mitch Duncan who closed the door on the St. Mikes power hitters with some big blocks.
In the back-court, defensive specialist Brendan Bishop, the team’s Libero, made some highlight reel digs that kept Warriors from getting any energy off big kills.
With the score 22-21 for St. Marys, it was one of Salukis’ most consistent and effective servers, Matt Wrigley who collected the 23rd and 24th points.
St. Marys was just one point away from collecting its second win of the day and taking a commanding 2-0 series lead. After a strategic time-out from St. Mikes coach Ted Hopkinson designed to freeze the confidence of St. Marys server Sam Thorup, play resumed.
Serves ace to win it
With complete silence in the gym, and everyone holding their breath in anticipation, it was Thorup who picked his spot and ended up serving an ace to win the set 25-23, giving Salukis a commanding two-set advantage in the best-of-five match.
In the third and final set, it was obvious that the Warriors had nothing left in the tank. Leading the way for Salukis were servers Sam Thorup and Jake Triemstra who collected a total of 15 points to give the host Juniors a comfortable 17-7 lead.
With St. Mikes unable to do anything either defensively or offensively, Salukis rolled to a winning score of 25-10 and the Huron-Perth gold medal.
At the end of the match, St. Marys assistant coach Sarah Fairley said, “The difference for our Juniors was their ability to deal with adversity. We were in some very tight spots, especially in the opening set when we were down 18-11, but the boys stayed strong mentally and were able to battle back for the wins.”
During both of the first two matches, head coach Ian Moore provided some inspirational words to guide his players on their quest to H-P gold.
In the end, he was especially proud of the control the players exhibited on the court. They played the ball with power and confidence, but with a tempered maturity often lacking in Junior players to make smart plays for key points.
This win was a redemption for returning players Hayden Moore, Kyle Fennema, Sam Thorup and Mitch Duncan, all members of last year’s DCVI Junior team that lost in the conference final to the Warriors.
It was also a special father-son moment for head coach Ian Moore to coach a team with his son, Hayden, to a Huron-Perth victory.
Both the Junior and Senior boys volleyball teams prepare for the regional WOSSAA championship this Thursday, Nov. 14 being held at St. Marys DCVI.
The teams will compete against schools from the Thames Valley Regional Athletic Association.
Congratulations to the Junior Salukis on their big win and good luck to both teams in WOSSAA Thursday! The Seniors play at 10 a.m., and the Juniors at 11:30 a.m. The gold-medal matches are scheduled for the afternoon in the big gym.