The top end contenders may or may not ultimately unseat the five-time city champion Lasalle Lancers at the pinnacle of senior high-school boys volleyball in Sudbury, but it won't be due to a lack of preparation against top end competition.
Both the Horizon Aigles and Lo-Ellen Park Knights, the two teams best positioned for a run at coach Dale Beausoleil's New Sudbury juggernaut squad this fall, attended the McMaster High School Volleyball Tournament last weekend, with both teams showing encouraging signs of promise.
Horizon, which has welcomed aboard a large majority of the young men who captured the SDSSAA junior banner last year to the senior ranks in 2019, overcame a tough pool to eventually emerge as consolation champions, stringing together three straight wins after dropping their first three matches.
While the team may have gone winless in round robin play, a three set battle with the Cardinal Newman Cardinals from Hamilton (25-13, 18-25, 8-15) and an ultra close setback against the Aurora Golden Eagles (30-32, 23-25) suggested that coach Guy Perreault and the Aigles were well within striking distance at the showcase event.
Growing increasingly accustomed to the higher level of competition, the Aigles proceeded to stop the Westmount Wildcats from Hamilton (25-19, 25-23) in consolation quarter-final action and the St Mary's Mustangs from Owen Sound (23-25, 28-26, 15-8) in the semis, before evening the score with Cardinal Newman with a 25-22, 25-22 sweep.
"We felt that we had come a long way since our first matches and the finals proved it," noted assistant coach Patrick Gervais of Horizon. "Our defence was strong throughout the tournament, and we started utilizing every hitter, which helped our offense."
The 2019 edition of the Horizon Aigles senior boys volleyball team includes Alex Giguère, Cédrick Jutras, Ben Lacroix, Alex Léger, Mathieu Lemieux, Miguel Levac, Greg Mrochek, Callum Patterson, Noah Perreault, Gavin Roy, Justin Tremblay and Jordan Trottier.
Meanwhile, over in Pool "C,” the Lo-Ellen Park Knights posted a record of 2-1, moving on to the championship round. The defending NOSSA "AAA" champions (Lasalle captured the NOSSA "AA" banner) then proceeded to eliminate the Grand River Renegades before falling to the Oakville Trafalgar Red Devils in the championship semi-final.
Little rest for the Knights, who were right back in tournament play this past Friday, walking away with bragging rights at the Canadore Panthers Boys High-School Tournament, defeating the Huntsville Hoyas in the final.
Back for a second year at the helm, head coach James Schweyer noted the benefits of also coaching a U17 boys club team in 2018-2019, a squad which included five players from Lo-Ellen, four from Lasalle, and a pair from Horizon.
"The quality of the play and confidence these guys (Lo-Ellen seniors) are showing this year is probably five or six steps further than we were last year, just because of all of the touches and them having had an extended season last year," he said.
"The biggest thing, especially with high school, is the consistency of play," Schweyer added. "It's about trying to play good ball on your side of the court, regardless of who is on the other side of the court."
Having their sights clearly set on their first city title since 2012 and a return trip to OFSAA, the Knights know enough not to discount either a young up and coming Horizon crew, or the Lasalle team which has set the standard in recent years.
While coach Beausoleil's primary volleyball commitment with the Cambrian Golden Shield women's team may have tempered the Lancers' out-of-town tournament trips, a full slate of events, either in the city or in the north, in the weeks ahead will provide ample opportunity for him to have his team ready to preserve their claim as the top high school boys volleyball program in Sudbury.
In other notes of interest, coach Dane Macveigh and the Lo-Ellen junior boys also took top spot at Canadore, downing the Chippewa Raiders from North Bay in the final. The next tournament action for most of these teams is set for Thursday, October 3rd, when Ecole secondaire catholique l'Horizon welcomes a slew of SDSSAA schools to Valley East for a single day event.