The NorWOSSA semi-final in senior boys’ volleyball between the Muskies and Kenora Broncos was pretty much a pick ’em.
Although Fort High (3-5) won the season series 3-1 over the Broncos (2-6), each of those wins came in five sets.
The Broncos’ lone victory, meanwhile, came in just four sets.
Also of note, in eight of the 19 sets that the teams played during the regular season, the margin of victory was the minimum two points, with each team winning four of the tight ones.
The semi-final, which got underway here this morning at 11:30, set the stage for the championship final against the powerhouse Dryden Eagles (7-1), which is set for 7:15 tonight in the large gym.
Head coach Allison Hyatt stressed her Muskie crew just has to stay focused and aggressive on offence while anticipating the Broncos’ plays defensively.
“Against Beaver Brae, we’re just going to have to play our game from the beginning of the set to the end of the set,” she reasoned.
“And then we’ll just have to play very good defence and just do what we normally do.”
The Muskies have the benefit of having seen both teams in the past week, although it’s an advantage that admittedly goes both ways.
Hyatt got a look at the Broncos in their last game of the NorWOSSA regular season on Nov. 2 while Fort High still had one more game to get things together against Dryden on Nov. 4.
Hyatt said she’s pinpointed the linchpins of the Kenora offence—and the Muskies’ defence will be working hard to shut it down.
“The Broncos have been hitting from the power position very well recently,” she observed. “We find that that’s one of their strengths.
“That’s their biggest thing that they bring at us.”
In their last match against Kenora, Hyatt said the black-and-gold were flexible defensively, which allowed them to bottle up the Broncos’ attack, but stuck to the plan offensively.
“We changed up our game to stop their game, which the boys did very well,” she recalled. “And then just running our offence was something they did well.
“They weren’t afraid to play our game.”
Meanwhile, if the Muskies win today’s semi-final and move on to play Dryden tonight, a few other challenges lie ahead.
Hyatt stressed her crew will have to stay relentless against the Eagles, not allowing them any free points.
“Against Dryden, we’re just going to have to shut down their best players in the front row,” she remarked.
“We have to play every single point. We can’t give them any sort of slack, which is what happened to us the last time we played them.
“Our first game, when we played against them, we played from point one to point 25 and we didn’t stop, and that’s what we’re going to have to do if we see them in the finals,” she stressed.
Fort High was unable to topple the Eagles in any of their four meetings during the regular season, but also was never swept in any of the four matches, dropping each one by a 3-1 margin.
Although the four total sets taken over the season is just one more than the Muskies will have to take in a best-of-five, in many of the 12 sets that they lost, a couple of points here or there would have made a big difference as the Muskies lost some tight ones.
Fort High certainly will do its best to amp up the home court advantage—everything from the extra bit of sleep to the short travel to the friendly crowd.
“It’s definitely something to our advantage,” Hyatt said. “It’s nice to have your crowd cheering for you and everybody there for you.
“Everybody’s cheering for you, your family and your friends, and also you don’t have to sit around all day in a gym that you’re not familiar with, so that’s good, too,” she added.
“They have to get up early and drive all the way to Fort Frances.”
Hyatt concluded by saying she and her team are anticipating the playoffs greatly.
“We’re really looking forward to hopefully advancing to the finals and playing Dryden in our home gym, and maybe beating them once this year,” she enthused.