Sr. spikers consoled by solid rebound

Dan Falloon

In the end, the Muskie senior boys’ volleyball team did record another third-place finish at the NorWOSSA playoffs.
And even though their semi-final loss here last Wednesday was a relatively swift sweep at the hands of the Kenora Broncos (26-24, 25-19, and 25-16), a number of positives will be taken from the season.
For starters, their 3-5 record during the regular season represented a fine bounceback year for a squad that went winless in 2009.
“I’m very proud of the whole season,” enthused head coach Allison Hyatt.
“I was very impressed with the way they played, very happy with it, because they made some big steps from last year and former years,” she noted.
“That’s what we had hoped to do.”
Hyatt stressed aggression all season, and observed that that type of play helped the Muskie defence grow by leaps and bounds.
“Over the course of the year, definitely their defence and their serve-receive passing really came along,” she said.
“Overall, it impressed me and surprised me how well their defence came along—their blocking, their digging, and really being able to read their hitters and be in the right place at the right time.
“They were more intense on defence, and really getting everything up, which keeps the rallies going,” she reasoned.
But even with the improvements and moral victories, the semi-final loss to the Broncos still stung as the Muskies didn’t play up to their standards after winning three of four matches from Kenora during the regular season.
“It was definitely a tough loss,” Hyatt acknowledged. “We were really looking forward to playing Dryden in the final, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen.
“Kenora came on strong and we didn’t play as well as we potentially could have,” she noted. “We didn’t play at the top of our game.
“That happens sometimes.”
On the flip side, Hyatt credited Kenora with having a solid game plan and executing it effectively.
“They were hitting very well. They were strong from the outside,” she recalled.
“Then they would mix it up,” she added. “They were definitely mixing up their offence and we weren’t defending it as well as we should have.”
Fort High had runs of brilliance during the semi-final, opening the second set on a 6-1 run, but the Broncos eventually overcame that deficit.
The black-and-gold also held an 8-7 lead in the third set, although Kenora saw the finish line and blazed through the rest of the set to close out the Muskie season.
“We had a pretty good offence, and we played defence well at times,” Hyatt said of the Muskies’ strengths during the match.
“We just never played consistently for a long period of time, which was our struggle over the whole year.
“There were some great moments in those games, and I was proud of the way the season ended,” she added.
Hyatt felt the team’s finest moments of the season came during a tournament in Winnipeg last month, at which the Muskies came to play against some of the city’s top teams.
The black-and-gold weren’t able to take any sets from any of the provincially-ranked squads but held their own, especially in a 2-0 loss (25-14 and 25-17) to the host Mennonite Brethren Hawks, who sat second at the time.
“Definitely, the Winnipeg tournament was a highlight of the year,” Hyatt enthused. “That was definitely the best I’ve seen the guys plays play.
“We competed against them, and we played very well when we played against them,” she noted.
This season provided a series of challenges for Hyatt, who was in her first year as head coach of the team.
Although she had helped out in 2009, and was familiar with the squad, officially taking the reins was a whole new ball game.
Much of her experience coming into the year came with girls’ volleyball, which tends to be more of a finesse game as opposed to a power one.
“I learned a lot, having never head coached at the senior high school level and certainly not the boys’ team,” she noted.
“I learned how to deal with the difference between coaching girls and boys.
“I learned how to adapt to playing other teams better.”
With the learning curve for Hyatt set to even out, a fair number of returning plays and a contingent of junior champs ready to make the jump to the senior ranks, things look positive heading into the 2011 season.
“We have a good core group coming back, and there are a few very good athletes coming up from junior, so I’m really looking forward to next year and seeing what we can do,” Hyatt remarked.
She also noted there are hopes to round up a club team. While nothing has been set officially, there at least are talks to get something underway this winter.
“It’s always a struggle because Kenora and Dryden both have club teams, so they play volleyball in the off-season,” Hyatt explained.
“That’s something that Fort Frances, for the boys, is lacking.
“They don’t have that opportunity to play in the off-season, so we’ve looked into developing that,” she said.