Any hopes of gold were quickly snuffed out for the Muskie senior boys' volleyball team in the NorWOSSA final on Friday in Dryden.
After advancing with a 3-1 win over the host second-place Eagles in the morning semifinal, the Muskies were overmatched by the powerhouse defending champion Kenora Broncos in a 3-0 sweep in the championship match that afternoon.
“We came out flat and the game stayed there,” conceded Muskie coach John Gibson, whose squad is happy with a silver-medal finish after finishing the NorWOSSA regular season in third place with a 3-6 record.
“[We had] missed opportunities and we couldn't get any momentum going.”
It didn't take long for the unbeaten Broncos, who nabbed a first-place bye to the NorWOSSA final with a 9-0 record in the regular season, to flex their muscles as they roared out to a 7-1 lead in the first set against the Muskies.
That prompted Gibson to call a timeout to settle his squad down, who then responded by trimming the gap to 7-4.
But the Broncos found their groove once again and jumped back ahead 17-9 before taking the set by a 25-16 count.
After the Muskies were as close as 10-8 in the second set, Kenora went on a 15-4 run to claim it by a commanding 25-12 margin.
The black-and-gold fought valiantly in the third set, trading points with the Broncos until the defending champs found their groove and went ahead 12-8.
Kenora then capped off their second championship in a row by ending the third set on a 13-7 run to take it 25-15.
The Broncos will now represent NorWOSSA at the NWOSSAA championships this Friday and Saturday in Thunder Bay.
“Even after dropping the first two sets, they still kept playing,” Gibson lauded of his squad's performance in the final.
"Caleb [Allan] and Mike [Vanderaa] were leaders out there, and it showed.
“I always want my team to play their best and unfortunately we didn't in the finals,” he conceded.
“I believe that had we done so, we could have beat Beaver Brae and whoever won out of Thunder Bay. However, a silver medal is still a decent result.”
As mentioned, Fort High had gone into Friday's final fresh off a comeback 3-1 win over the host Eagles in the morning semifinal.
After dropping the first set 25-22, the Muskies dug deep and played some excellent volleyball to nab their berth into the championship match.
The Muskies rattled off three straight set wins by scores of 25-15, 25-21, and 25-14 to stun the hosts on their home court.
“It was great to see them shrug it off and continue to improve their play,” Gibson said of his players' resolve after losing the first set against the Eagles.
"Everyone was into the game! The bench was yelling, the players on the court picked each other up, and they made fewer and fewer mistakes.
“I was really happy with how well they served and attacked the ball,” he enthused.
“The last two points of the match were perfect examples of this.”
Gibson said that his biggest joy in coaching the senior boys this season was watching them have fun while playing the game and he is looking forward to the future with the returning and new players.
“The smiles and cheers after a big play, and the laughs when they shrug off a silly mistake . . . makes it all worthwhile,” he remarked.
“They should do very well next year. We have a really strong group of Grade 11s returning, and a solid group of Grade 10s moving up.”