The Muskie senior boys went into last Friday’s NorWOSSA championship game here on a losing streak, often playing uninspired volleyball along the way.
But the black-and-gold won the match that counted most, downing the Kenora Broncos in straight sets 15-10, 15-9, and 15-11 to capture the gold medal.
(Because there were no high school sports in Thunder Bay this fall, the Muskies also earned a trip to the all-Ontarios as the NWOSSAA rep. But it wasn’t known yet whether they’ll make the trip east).
The Muskies outhit and outblocked the Broncos right from the opening serve—and clearly dominated Kenora over the final two games.
After prevailing in a seesaw battle in the first game, the Muskies jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second one before Kenora roared back to knot things up at 9-9. But the black-and-gold regained control and took the final six points for the win.
In the third and deciding game, the Broncos got as close as 12-11 before the Muskies nailed down the final three points for gold.
Kenora had advanced to the final with a dramatic comeback victory over the Dryden Eagles in the best-of-five semi-final earlier Friday, dropping the first two games before rebounding to take the next three.
Jeff Morrison and Evan Woodland were at the top of their games throughout Friday’s match against the Broncos, letting loose with some powerful hits while providing some solid defence at the net.
“Our guys were blocking and hitting, and we got some good sets from [Jason] Jones and Mike Anderson,” Muskie head coach Toby Munro said afterwards.
Morrison, the team’s power hitter, admitted it was a nice way to finish what was a frustrating season at times. It was a feeling echoed by many of the other Muskies.
“We all just wanted to end the season on a good note and we did,” said Woodland. “We’ve [beaten Kenora] before but it still feels good. We basically blew off the season and said ‘let’s finish as a winner.’”
But while the Muskies beat the Broncos quite handily, Munro felt it was more a case of Kenora playing that bad instead of the Fort playing that well. In fact, he admitted they benefited from Kenora missing most of the regular season due to stalled contract talks between the teachers and school board up there.
“Honestly, I thought we altogether played pretty well but I thought we played better in our last match of the regular season [a loss here the previous week to Pelican Falls],” said Munro.
“We didn’t really play our best match. I’ve seen them play better and crisper,” he added. “There were lots of hits and serves going into the net.”
< *c>Juniors fall
In junior action, the Muskies got off to a good start in the final against the Broncos by winning the first game 15-10.
But it was all Kenora after that, winning the next three games 15-8 15-1, and 15-6 to take the best-of-five match and the gold medal.
Kenora had a pair of hitters who proved to be too much for the Fort blockers, routinely hitting the ball down the middle or mixing it down the line. Still, head coach Duane Roen praised the play of Benji DeGroot, Nick Botsford, and Josh McMahon in the loss.
Despite the loss, Roen also said he was impressed with his team’s play down the final stretch and felt they improved tremendously as the season went along.
“The guys learned a lot and we carried all grade nines and 10s so we should be much stronger next year,” the rookie coach noted. “We have four or five grade nines with a lot of potential.”