Different coach. Pretty much a different team. Same result for the Lasalle Lancers senior boys volleyball group, at least to this point anyway.
With Scott Thomas coaching at the senior level for the first time in his career, the Lancers earned a return trip to OFSAA last week, despite the fact the team welcomed back only Tyrus Cuculick and Dylan Terris from the squad that captured the NOSSA AA Boys Volleyball banner one year ago.
Lasalle picked up a key close second-set win, and bounced back nicely after a third-set push from the Widdifield Wildcats, eventually downing the North Bay champions 25-17, 26-24, 20-25, 25-10.
Through two sets, the Lancers appeared well in control.
"Our passing on serve receive, on free balls, was great, which allowed us to run a really fast offence," said Thomas. "When we really go on offence, I don't think there is a team in Sudbury, or in this area, that can touch us."
The Wildcats, who had also taken a set from Lasalle in their round-robin game, were not about to go down without a fight, prompting a "players'" response from the defending champs, who were also benefiting from home court advantage as tournament host.
"The two captains (Dylan and Tyrus) stepped up and talked to some of the players that were struggling, and really picked them back up," Thomas said of the post-third-set conversation. "The next set, we really took it away."
An average-sized team on a local level, and likely undersized when they travel to OFSAA, the Lancers opted to roll over the block on almost 50 per cent of their scoring attacks in the final. According to Thomas, it was likely the right decision, in this particular instance.
"We have swung hard most of the year," he said. "Today, we were playing a little more strategic. We hit a lot in our first two games of round-robin play. In the final, we were placing the ball in good spots and finding holes."
Duplicating the bronze-medal performance of the 2015 Lasalle representatives is likely far too much to ask of a still very young Lancer lineup, though Thomas is more than pleased to simply have that opportunity.
"The biggest thing for us was just to get there for the experience," he said. "We're only losing a couple of guys for next year, and we're gaining some really big hitters from the junior team. Just for these guys to experience this pace of volleyball, with some many coming back next year, is going to do us a lot of good."
The Lasalle squad that will enter the 2016 OFSAA Boys Volleyball Championships as the No. 5 seed in Windsor features a lineup of Michael Babcock, Vincent Bonhomme, Nathan Scully, Julien Giroux, Cameron Alisappi, Ben Doucette, Aiden Lewis, Carter Wachnuk, as well as Terris and Cuculick.
The Junior Lancers had set the tone for the NOSSA final, securing a championship banner of their own with a hard-fought 25-27, 25-14, 26-24, 25-20 over the Lockerby Vikings, as Dale Beausoleil (Lasalle) would claim bragging rights over Stephen Beausoleil (Lockerby) in the latest installment of the head-to-head matchup of elite coaching minds and siblings.
In other senior volleyball NOSSA finals, the Chippewa Raiders claimed the AAA crown with a five-set win over the Lockerby Vikings in North Bay, while the Manitoulin Mustangs walked off with the 'A' title in Espanola.