By Charlie Pinkerton
For the second time in as many years, Louis-Riel’s boys’ volleyball team are provincial champs. A young Rebelles team surprised coach Frank St-Denis by dominating the ‘A’ division of the 2017 OFSAA championship, a title that the coach said he hadn’t thought was attainable at the beginning of the season.
“I knew we were going to be competitive but never ever did I think we would make it through OFSAA without losing a single set,” St-Denis said.
The Rebelles had only two returning starters from last year’s OFSAA champions. Led by Under-18 Maverick Volleyball Club teammates Max St-Denis, the son of head coach Frank St-Denis, and Luca Beaulieu, the team was composed of only four Grade 12 players and five Grade 10s.
“They’re all great club players, but still at the beginning of the year I thought it would be a bit of a stretch,” St-Denis said.
Louis-Riel finished the regular season with a 6-2 record. Their two losses in National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association play came against a Franco-Cite team that placed 2nd at ‘AA’ OFSAA.
The defending champs were awarded the Number 1 seed at OFSAA, a ranking they proved worthy of by sweeping the sets of all four of their round-robin games against teams in their pool.
In the tournament’s quarter-final, the Rebelles beat 8th seeded Quinte handily by scores 25-10, 25-16 and 25-12. Next up against 10th seeded Brampton in the semi-final, St-Denis said his team was able to take advantage of a weak passer on the opposition.
“He really broke down and I guess they didn’t have another guy to sub in for him, and basically he was giving us 5 or 6 or 3 points a set,” he explained. Brampton had no answer, and Louis-Riel swept them 25-21, 25-13, and 25-14.
In the championship, Louis-Riel played the tournament’s host, 2nd seeded Toronto District Christian, who St-Denis described as a “very talented, physical squad.”
The Rebelles exploited the tendencies of Toronto District Christian’s top hitters in order to shut them down and win the championship in straight sets: 25-16, 25-18, 25-13.
St-Denis said it was his team’s serving ability that propelled them in the provincial championship.
“We had some moments at being a good serving team during the year, but at OFSAA that really came through,” St-Denis outlined. “I think a part of that is that teams aren’t used to seeing all six servers jump serving, some with a couple of good spins, and that puts a lot of pressure and really stabilizes a few teams. In turn, that simplified our defense as well.”
The provincial title comes at the end of a 6-2 regular season for Louis-Riel. Their two losses in National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association play came against a Franco-Cite team that placed 2nd at ‘AA’ OFSAA.
“I’m super happy for this group,” St-Denis said. “The future looks good with five returning starters and five or six other Grade 10s playing on the junior team. I’m also super happy for Luca and Max for becoming two-time OFSAA champions. That’s really unique.”