Junior spikers stopped in final

The ending could have used a little work, but the Muskie junior boys’ volleyball season ended up being a real page-turner after all.
Coach Greg Ste. Croix guided his charges to another exciting victory in the NorWOSSA semi-final in Kenora last Friday, rallying from a 2-1 deficit to win the best-of-five match over the defending champion Broncos.
Game scores were 15-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-15, and 15-5.
“I’m really proud of the guys for coming back,” said Ste. Croix, whose team finished with a 2-5 mark during the regular season before beating their playoff conquerors from the finals a year ago.
“We missed only two serves the whole match. That’s absolutely phenomenal,” he enthused.
“We blocked well, and attacked the ball hard,” he added. “Between the third and the fourth set, I commented to them that if we play our game, using our basics, we can win.
“But I didn’t have to say much.”
Instead, the Muskies’ play spoke volumes. Halfway through the fourth set, a series of Fort High kills and blocks sucked the life out of the Broncos—and it was smooth sailing from there.
“It’s a game of momentum, and when you have it, you can do great things,” reasoned Ste. Croix. “And when you don’t. . . .”
The flip side was vividly apparent against Dryden in the final later Friday as the Eagles took command from the opening serve and never let up in a 3-0 sweep.
Game scores were 25-22, 25-17, and 25-15.
“To beat a team like Dryden, you have to hit the ball well and we didn’t,” noted Ste. Croix. “We were sloppy, and much of the time we were just getting the ball over the net, not attacking the net.
“We didn’t cover well on their tips and we didn’t have any blocks.”
But a season of inconsistency still lent itself to optimism for the future in Ste. Croix’s eyes.
“We developed a lot of players this season,” he remarked. “We were going in with just three returning players. We had some Grade 10s step up, as well as some Grade 9s.
“I like who we have returning next year. I think we’ll be right in the thick of things,” he added.
Semi-final shutdown
Meanwhile, it was déja vu for the Muskie senior spikers, as well, who repeated their performance of last year by falling in the semi-final to Kenora by a 3-1 margin Friday.
Like in their playoff match-up last year, the Muskies pulled out a tight first set win by a 25-23 score, punctuated by a Cullan McGinnis smash at the net that had a team who suffered through a winless NorWOSSA campaign smelling upset.
But just like last year, the Broncos regrouped to win the second set 25-23 in a game featuring six missed serves by the Muskies, who led 21-17 at one point.
The third set was all Kenora as they claimed a 25-15 victory. Then the fourth game was nip and tuck, with the teams dead even at 16, before a Broncos kill launched them on a 9-1 run that ended the match and the Muskies’ season.
“Kenora’s just a great team,” Muskie head coach Adrian Chapman said after the match. “They’re very strong offensively, but the most impressive part of their game is their defence.
“Our team finally stepped up and showed how we can play,” he added. “I’m proud of them. It’s hard to give up a game because of errors, though.”
Chapman took a final look back at a season which saw his troops never quite put it all together—even with the high calibre of players on hand.
“It’s real unfortunate that we came up with a losing season because we had so much talent on this team,” he lamented. “I keep wondering what I did wrong that I couldn’t bring out the talent. I take the blame.
“If we had peaked earlier in the season, we could have taken this league.
“But we lose only three guys [McGinnis, Matt Gamsby, and Kurtis Wepruk],” Chapman added. “We get both setters back, and we’ve got some big hitters coming up from the junior team.
“There’s a lot of young players on this team, so we’ve got a good future ahead of us.”