The Nipissing Lakers won the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association men's volleyball championship, but they were given a real scare by the Mohawk Mountaineers last Saturday.
Mohawk, which had to qualify to make it to the event at Oakville's Sheridan College, as the lowest seed in the West Region, shocked both Redeemer Royals and Algonquin Thunder to get to the final.
Eric Danecke had 12 offensive points as Mohawk beat Redeemer 3-1 and Mo Sulaiman had 13 kills in a stunning 3-0 sweep of top rated Algonquin.
The gold medal match was a see-saw, edge of your seat encounter, in which the Lakers simply outlasted the Mountaineers, 25-16, 20-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-7.
Fifth year player Sulaiman led Mohawk with 12 kills and two stuff blocks. Phil Youngblut had six kills and six blocks.
Marcin Jedrzejewski contributed seven kills, one service ace and two blocks, Trevor McLaughlin recorded eight kills and one block and Danecke had seven kills and two blocks.
McLaughlin was Mohawk's player-of-the-game and was named to the all-star team along with Sulaiman.
While Nipissing advanced to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship slated for March 7-9 at Niagara College, it may be hard for Mohawk to see the silver lining in the immediate wake of the tournament. But after posting a 4-5 conference record in the second half of the season, including dropping three of their last four, head coach Matthew Schnarr; interviewed by Sheridan College, hoped in time his players will understand how special their run was.
"I think that my boys turned into young men today," he said. "A lot of the season was understanding what it takes to play at the top level in this league and it took a long time to figure it out. We have 11 first year athletes that understand (now).”
The Mohawk women's basketball team will not be going to the OCAA championship.
The Mountaineers won their final regular season game, 74-73 at home over Sheridan on Feb. 20. Rachelle Abella scored 15 points for Mohawk.
Three days later, the Mountaineers lost 68-64 to the George Brown Huskies in their crossover qualifying game in Toronto.
Mohawk got off to a very slow start, trailing 18-2, but settled down and reduced the deficit to seven points by halftime.
They then took a seven point lead in the third quarter, but came up empty too many times from the free throw line, while George Brown hit a couple of three-pointers to swing the momentum back to them in a well played, very intense game.
"I am truly proud of this team,” said Mountaineers head coach Kevin Duffy. “We faced a ton of adversity this year with injuries and never used it as a crutch or an excuse. We made many gains this year, improving our win total and making it to the playoffs. We have a very young and talented squad and I look forward to our future.”