Senior spikers strike gold

Playing what head coach Adrian Chapman called “their best volleyball of the season,” the Muskies spiked their way to a trip to the NWOSSAA playoffs in Thunder Bay this weekend after a dramatic comeback over Kenora in the NorWOSSA final last Friday in Dryden.
Chapman said his team hit with power, blocked with intensity, and dug ball after ball off the floor, routinely frustrating the Kenora hitters.
It was their gutsiest–and most impressive performance–of the season.
“It was solid. Every game was close and there weren’t any easy ones,” Chapman remarked.
After winning the first game 25-14, the Muskies dropped a pair of extremely close ones–27-25 and then 26-24–to fall behind the best-of-five showdown 2-1.
It seemed to be a case of déja vu. Two weeks ago, the Muskies let a 2-0 lead slip away against the Broncos here–losing a pair of games in dramatic fashion and appearing to lose the momentum with each point surrendered.
“That’s what I was worried about,” admitted Chapman. “But not this time. They stayed up and looked like a different team–they made no mistakes.”
This time it was the Muskies who stormed back to claim victory. They staved off elimination with a 25-20 win in the fourth game, then rode that momentum to a thrilling 15-11 win in the fifth and deciding one.
Chapman had a feeling his team would make a run for the gold because they had been so sharp earlier Friday to sweep Dryden 25-16, 25-15, and 25-18 in the semi-final.
“We had to play Dryden first and they were perfect,” he noted. “They were solid defensively, and offensively they were amazing.
“We were really ready to go and they played the best I’ve ever seen them,” he added. “They didn’t make any mistakes–they were unconscious.”
John Sivonen was hitting with power, Evan Woodland was playing spectacular defence blocking at the net, and Benji DeGroot was consistently digging balls time and time again.
“Every power hit seemed to go to [Benji] and he was blocking them off his chest, diving, it was just great defence,” Chapman enthused.
While the Muskie defence was in top form so, too, was their offence, which underwent a slight change. They elected to set up their hits with lower, quicker passes in an effort to keep the Bronco blockers off balance.
And the change worked wonders.
“We did it for two reasons,” said Chapman. “One, their defence is so good that we had to try to find a way to crack it. And secondly, they are not that tall.
“We wanted to speed up our offence and use some trickier plays that Kenora was not used to,” he explained.
< *c>Juniors swept
But it was a different story Friday for the junior boys, who were swept in the semi-final by the host Eagles by scores of 25-18, 25-21, and 25-9.
Head coach Duane Roen said the turning point was the fact they lost the first two games by relatively close margins. He felt if they could have won at least one of those, they might have had a shot at taking the match.
“Our guys just weren’t into it,” Roen admitted. “My team just ran out of steam. We came out hard and were hitting and they started to tip balls over and that hurt us.”
What also hurt the juniors was the 14 straight points Dryden scored in the third game.
Roen said the Muskies were led by the strong play of power hitter Wendell Johnson and setters Pat Fleming and Jeremy Wilson.
“I don’t know what it is. We’ve never lost three straight to Dryden before,” he added.
Kenora went on to win the NorWOSSA junior crown with a three-game sweep over the Eagles (25-22, 25-21, and 28-26).