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Owl junior spikers aiming for strong finish

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The Rainy River Owl junior boys' volleyball team accomplished its goal of making the playoffs and is hoping to end the regular season strong this week.

The Owls were strong on Monday afternoon as they dispatched the visiting Ignace Falcons 3-0 to see their NorWOSSA 'A' record improve to 5-4.

“I was impressed, that was good,” Owls' coach Tyson Grinsell said of his squad's win after the match.

“They kept it simple, served well, passed well, hit well, so everything came together really nice.”

After winning the first set by a 25-14 margin, the Owls kept that momentum going by also winning the second set 25-18.

Then in dominating fashion, Rainy River closed things out with a 25-10 win in the third set.

Grinsell (who served quadruple duty on Monday as he coached, refereed both the senior boys' volleyball and senior girls' basketball games, and was timekeeper for the Muskie girls' hockey team's exhibition game against the Borderland Chiefs that night) believes that his squad now sits in the playoff picture and hopes his team can continue their success in their regular season finale on Thursday against the Atikokan Voyageurs at RRHS.

“I'm pretty sure that win puts us into the playoffs, I'll have to look and check again,” he remarked.

"But I think, probably, weird things would have to happen now for us not to make playoffs. So, I'm pretty sure we're in.

“We'll probably take another big win in our home gym,” he smiled when speaking of the upcoming game against Atikokan.

"I think probably the biggest thing is every team has one big server, so when the other team's big server is up, we need to stop them the first time so they don't get a few points in a row.

“So I think that's probably our biggest thing right now," he stressed. "As long as we can pass on their big server, we should be good.”

The Owls had gone into Monday's game against Ignace fresh off a pair of victories and a loss last week.

After downing the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) 2-1 last Tuesday, the Owls then fell 2-0 (25-22/25-21) to the Pelican Falls Timberwolves at home the following day.

The squad then travelled to Atikokan on Thursday and downed the Voyageurs 3-0.

As for the seniors, they won a back-and-forth match against the visiting Pelicans 3-1 on Monday to see their record improve to 4-5.

After trailing by as much as 23-21 in the first set, the Owls fought back to win it 25-23.

Rainy River then cruised to a 25-8 win in a dominant second set but had the momentum go Ignace's way with a 25-19 loss in the third set.

But the Owls regrouped and won a back-and-forth fourth set by a 25-18 margin.

“It was kinda back and forth, when we played well when our passing was there, it came together and we started getting some nice attacks,” said Owls' coach Guy Arpin after the match.

“We have to attack at the senior level in order to win,” he stressed.

“You can't win on free balls and when we attack, we do fine. When we don't attack, then we struggle.”

The win over the Falcons at home on Monday was a welcome gift for the Owls, who came into the match after losing all three of their games last week.

After losing 3-0 go both the Saints and Timberwolves at home last Tuesday and Wednesday, the Owls travelled to Atikokan on Thursday and were dealt another tough 3-0 loss.

But Arpin said the sets against Atikokan were close and he was pleased with how his squad battled in the loss.

“We played Atikokan last week, even though we lost in three I felt the boys played very well,” he noted.

"I think we lost 26-24 one set and 25-20, so we were in the matches at least.

“It was good volleyball and that's what I love, I love good volleyball," he enthused. "Win or lose, if you play your best, may the best team win. I'm a firm believer in that.”

The Owls will unfortunately miss the NorWOSSA 'A' playoffs as they finished fourth, with Pelican Falls likely taking the third and final playoff spot.

But Arpin is still hopeful his squad will end the regular season strong against the visiting Voyageurs on Thursday.

“Pelican Falls beat us out,” Arpin conceded.

"We just wanna finish the year off with a bang in terms of having it all come together, do the little things right like I harp about all year long.

“Do the little things right and just come out and attack,” he added.

“Volleyball is a game and we play games to have fun. We're competitive, but we gotta have fun.”

In girls' basketball action on Monday, meanwhile, the Owl seniors dispatched the Falcons 35-16 to see their league record improve to 4-4.

The Owls led just 16-10 at halftime before pulling away with an excellent third quarter.

Rainy River had gone into Monday's game after losing two of its three games last week.

The squad lost 31-25 to the Saints last Tuesday before routing the Timberwolves 55-15 the following day, with both games at RRHS.

The Owls then battled the host Voyageurs on Thursday, with Atikokan coming out on top 34-29.

Ignace doesn't have a junior girls' basketball team, so the Owls had the day off on Monday.

Last week, however, the Owls saw their league record improve to 5-2.

Rainy River lost 38-21 to the visiting Saints last Tuesday but rebounded with a 42-8 rout of the Timberwolves at RRHS the following day.

Then on Thursday the squad pulled out an impressive 37-22 victory over Atikokan.

Both Owl basketball squads will also end the regular season at home on Thursday against the Voyageurs.

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