Junior Lions carry momentum
Photo by Sean Allen, Brant News
Members of the Assumption College Lions junior boys volleyball team celebrate their victory over BCI on Tuesday at ACS.
The Assumption Lions junior boys volleyball team is easily the most improved team in the Brant high school league this season.
And they may have improved enough to be the champions.
“At the start of the season we weren’t performing well as a team,” player Cole Robillard said. “It’s a new team with a lot of new guys. But once we started to get to know each other better, we started to play a lot better.”
The Lions downed the Brantford Collegiate Institute Mustangs 3-1 on Tuesday in Game 1 of the best-of-three junior volleyball championship series.
The Lions can claim the title with a win in Game 2 at Assumption College on Thursday at 4 p.m.
The team has come a long way during the season that started back in September.
After starting the season 2-4, the Lions closed their regular season campaign with a four-game win streak that included shutout victories against the first place Mustangs and second place North Park Collegiate Trojans.
The Lions carried their momentum into the playoffs to knock off the No. 2 seed Trojans 2-1 in a best-of-three semifinal last week, setting up a matchup with the No. 1 seed Mustangs for the championship.
The improvement in the Lions team has not escaped the Mustangs players.
“They are the most improved team this year,” Mustangs player Ethan Hager said. “At the beginning of the year they weren’t bad, but they were not nearly as good as they are now. Now they are an extremely strong team and we are going to have to pull ourselves together to get the win.”
Assumption took the first set of the game on Tuesday 25-18 thanks to an extended service run by Robillard and great blocking at the net by Michael Heron.
In the second set, the Mustangs clawed back from an early deficit thanks to a streak of serves by Austyn Antonowicz, but strong play at the net by Josh Turner helped propel the Lions to another 25-18 win.
The Mustangs were never out of the game thanks to heat-seeking serves and devastating spikes by Dalton Mark, who is one of the stronger junior players in the league.
“He’s a great hitter with a lot of good tips,” Robillard said. “We have to watch out for him.”
Thanks to Mark’s hitting and well-placed serves from Austin Leschuk and Lucas Varey, the Mustangs stole the third set 25-22.
In the fourth set, Tanner Baldin served the Lions to an early lead, but Hager erased it with his strong serves. The only junior player on the court using a jump serve, Hager tied the game 10-10.
But more great net work by Heron and a second service run by Baldin eventually overpowered the Mustangs to give the Lions the 25-14 set win and 3-1 victory in the game.
Hager said the Mustangs have to stop making unforced errors to get back in the series.
“Our team was having some struggles getting the ball over the net and making the simple decisions,” he said. “(It) was ridiculous how many mistakes we made. We have to get our serves over and not make as many mistakes.”
In the senior championship, the North Park Trojans earned a 3-1 victory against the Paris District High School Panthers in Game 1 of the final. Game 2 of the senior championship will follow the junior game at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.