Juniors finish season on strong note

Struchan Gilson and Duane Roen have used the same coaching formula in junior girls’ volleyball together for the past four years—the annual run of regular-season games and tournaments is merely a step towards the NorWOSSA playoffs.
Their team evidently listened.
After battling to a 4-4 record during the regular season, the Muskies beat the host Broncos in the semi-final and then upset the top-ranked Dryden Eagles in the final last Friday in Kenora to claim the program’s sixth NorWOSSA title in seven years.
“We tried things out all season and everything leads up to this day,” said Roen.
The black-and-gold opened the best-of-five showdown on a shaky note as the Eagles jumped out to a 10-2 lead and never looked back en route to a 25-14 win in the first set.
But the Muskies settled down after that, winning 25-17 in the second set and then running away with a 25-15 win in the crucial third set.
In the fourth set, Dryden surrendered an early lead but tried to rally back by scoring three-straight points to close the gap to 21-14.
But Mallory Chowhan spiked a ball that just bounced inside the line to give the Muskies a 22-14 lead and control of the match en route to a 25-15 victory.
“[Volleyball] is an emotional game. We got a little bit ahead there and Dryden kind of collapsed,” said Gilson. “I was really happy with the way the team played. We peaked at the right time.”
After keeping mum over which players he’d use among the 17 on the roster, Gilson said the lineup that seemed to work in the final consisted of Kate Elliott and Amanda Allan at middle, April Whitecrow and Shannon Kabatay as setters, and Melanie Pierce and Chowhan at power.
Laura Busch also saw time as a setter while Samantha Pearson played the “libero” position (digger used strictly for defence).
But Gilson was pleased all 17 players who made the trip had a chance to play.
“That was important,” he stressed. “And the whole team managed to play and get a chance to experience that atmosphere.”
The Muskies had gone 0-4 against the Eagles during the regular season. But Gilson and Roen, along with first-year assistant Laureen Hill, continually told the team not to be concerned with past encounters.
“We told them, ‘Go out there playing the way we practised,’” noted Gilson. “Trust yourself and your teammates, and everything will be fine.”
The Muskies advanced to the final after beating the Broncos 3-1 in the best-of-five semi-final, winning the first two sets 25-14 and 25-16, losing the third one 25-12, but taking the fourth 25-17 for the match.
Junior boys
Meanwhile, the Muskie junior boys’ basketball team fell short of a gold medal in Friday’s final against the Eagles. But head coach Greg Ste. Croix said his team can take solace in the fact they rebounded from their poor play in their last two league games.
“Our guys stepped up. I’m extremely happy with every single player,” an upbeat Ste. Croix said after his team dropped a 54-39 decision to Dryden.
In the end, the Muskies had no answer for the hot-shooting Eagles, who netted eight three-pointers in the game.
Trailing 34-22 at the half, the black-and-gold started to rally in the second half, cutting the gap to 43-34 by the fourth quarter after inside baskets by Mark Buist and Andrew Mueller.
But Dryden’s Mike Hanson, who led all scorers with 17 points, hit two three-pointers to ignite a rally-killing 7-2 run.
Buist scored nine to lead the black-and-gold while Scott Galusha added eight.
“They hit big threes all day,” said Ste. Croix. “We had five or six balls go in and out. When they don’t drop, they don’t drop.
“And when the ball starts going in the other way, it eats away at you,” he added.
The Muskies played the host Broncos in the semi-final earlier Friday and fell behind 17-14 at the half.
But they responded with back-to-back buckets from Scott Bridgeman and Mueller to take a 22-21 lead heading into the fourth. A couple of open court lay-ups by David Pierce and a three from Mueller helped keep the Broncos at bay.
Bridgeman paced the Muskies with nine against Kenora, with Mueller next with five.
Ste. Croix added the team—which is heavy with grade 10 students—should provide the senior boys’ team with talent for next season.
“There are some guys I really hope grow and develop and remain involved in basketball,” he said. “If they stick with it, we’ll have a lot of success.”