In what was his first game as a high school coach, and the first at that level for many of his players, Zac Tolen was taking a wait-and-see attitude beforehand.
“We’re going to find out where we are pretty quick,” Tolen smiled about the prospect of facing the traditionally tough St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) on Monday at home in the first game of the NorWOSSA ‘A’ junior boys’ volleyball regular season.
The Saints delivered the answer in sweeping fashion, taking a 3-0 decision (25-11, 25-14, and 25-22).
Rainy River stayed close early in the first set, forging a 7-7 tie, before the visitors took over with a 10-2 run.
The second set saw the Saints jump out a 9-3 start to prompted Tolen to call time-out to try and settle his troops down.
It seemed to work as the Owls stayed even over the next 20 points before the Saints nailed down the victory with a late 6-1 run.
With its back to the wall, RRHS came out charged up for the third set and built an 8-5 lead through some terrific play at the net and outstanding defensive saves.
The two teams slugged it out the whole set, winding up tied at 21-21 at one point.
But the Saints were too tough in the end, capturing four of the last five points to seal the match.
Before taking to the floor, Tolen assessed the talent he had on hand.
“We just took the best talent,” he noted. “Those that showed up to practice and showed they wanted to work hard to get to play.
“I think we’re doing all right so far, considering we’ve only had two weeks of practice,” Tolen added.
The roster includes setters Hayden Haw and Joshua Indian, middles Aiden Tom and Brendan Wilson, powers Brayden Holmes and Connor Ivall, offside hitter Liam Pearson, left back Walid Quran, and multi-position players Carlin Drennan and Kolby St. Pierre.
“The group gets along well,” Tolen said. “They’re all friends and they battle for each other on the court.
“We want to push for a playoff spot eventually.”
Meanwhile, the senior Owls also felt the wrath of the Saints on Monday as the visitors cruised to a 3-0 win (25-15, 25-17, and 25-13).
This season’s squad, coached by Guy Arpin, includes Jackson Arpin, Danier Andy, Evan Govier, Gethon Wood, Morgan Desserre, Nick Vogan, Noah Nault, and Zak Quran.
Both spike squads played at home again yesterday against the Red Lake Rams (score unavailable at press time).
The Owls don’t resume league action until Oct. 3 when they welcome the Ignace Falcons.