Sherwood wins junior title
By Colin Gallant, special to the News
If any team knew it was possible to come back from the brink of elimination, it was the Westmount Wildcats.
Last year, the Wildcats had a 2-0 lead on the Ancaster Royals and were within a few points of winning the public high school senior boys championship. The Royals fought back to win the Hamilton-Wentworth Interscholastic Athletic Council (HWIAC) title.
Fast forward a year and it was a similar situation — but this time it was the Sir Allan MacNab Lions that held the 2-0 lead and the Wildcats were on the ropes.
Friday’s HWIAC championship was a game that boasted just about every twist and turn a true final should have.
In the end, the Westmount Wildcats proved they were deserving of their first title in the school’s history Friday night, battling back to beat the Lions in a five-set marathon match.
"True champions don't stay high," said Wildcats coach Paul Guagliano after the game. "True champions rise from the ashes. True champions come from down and work themselves back up to rise to the challenge."
And it was a challenge. After losing the first two sets, it didn't look good for Westmount's squad.
Though the Wildcats were competitive in both sets, losing 25-22 both times, they just didn't look as focused or as composed as MacNab.
"We stuck to our game plan in the first two sets," said Lion head coach Paul Kislinsky. "The better team won today.”
Great serving and hitting from Grade 11 player Sean McArthur led the strong Lions offence. Combined with horrendous serving and missed blocks from the Wildcats, it was easy to see why last year’s finalists were trailing early.
It wasn't until the third set that club players Ben and Brett Tonin started to turn the game around.
After jumping out to a 10-5 lead, the Wildcats never looked back, winning the set in convincing fashion, 25-15.
"The intensity of the game was just incredible," Westmount middle Greg Iarusso said.
Left side Marcus Wu, who has been a big part of the offensive attack since he joined the team in Grade 10, also had a strong set.
Both teams exchanging leads in the fourth set and both sides proved they deserved to be in the final. After a MacNab timeout with the set tied at 17, Westmount clawed away at the demoralized Lion team, taking the set 25-21.
"Last year we lost in five sets against Ancaster," Brett Tonin said after the game. "We wanted to make sure that didn't happen again."
The loud Westmount crowd had their back all night, even when they were down.
Leading 8-4 in the final set when the teams switched sides, the Wildcats jumped on the Lions, who already looked as though they had lost.
Strong blocking from Grade 12 student Isaac Cook sparked the team and crowd, while Wu and lone Grade 11 starter Cameron Kapteyn hit excellently from the left side for Westmount.
After another timeout at 10-4, Westmount closed it out with a 15-8 win.
"My team is the best team that ever put a ‘W’ on their back," setter Ben Tonin said after the game with tears in his eyes.
"I'm so proud of my boys," said libero Lucas Scime after the game.”"It feels so good to win."
It was an emotional ending for many of the Wildcats, who may be moving on to play competitive university and college volleyball next year.
As for the Lions, Grade 11 starters Sean McArthur, Adam Vuong and Matthew Trpcic promised they will be back looking for the championship next year.
"The last three sets they served well, they set well, they blocked well, they just outplayed us," McArthur said.
The Quad-A Southern Ontario Secondary School Association (SOSSA) championship is Wednesday at Westmount to decide who will represent southern Ontario at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA). Cathedral, which won the Hamilton Catholic senior boys title, is hosting the OFSAA Quad-A tournament.
MacNab will play a challenge match against Hamilton District Christian High to determine who will qualify for Double-A SOSSA.
The Sherwood Saints, who lost a five-set thriller to MacNab in the semi-finals, have also qualified for Triple-A SOSSA in St. Catharines next Wednesday.
In the HWIAC junior final, the Sherwood Saints beat the Waterdown Warriors in four sets.
It was the third win in four years for the Saints, their only loss being to MacNab last year in five sets.
After dominating the first set 25-15, Sherwood seemed to let up and Waterdown took advantage of countless unforced errors to win the second set 25-23.
Strong net play from Christian Smith, Keegan Markgraf and Paul Wagner ensured that the Saints would not lose another set.
Sherwood won the next two sets, 25-22 and 25-20, respectively, as a result of effective blocking and strong passing.
"I feel like we passed better than anyone else did this year," said Saints head coach Kara Kindree. "The team has worked really hard all year.”
"Even when they were in tough, they dug deep, and worked together. I'm really proud of them."
The game was played in front of a loud Saints crowd, which seemed to demoralize the Warrior players.
"It’s hard to play against such a loud crowd," said Ben Patterson of the Warrior. "I think it really got to us."