By Larry Moko
The Bishop Ryan Celtics rallied from their most one-sided set loss of the season to take the next two sets and defeat the first-place St. Thomas More Knights for the 2020 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school volleyball championship.
It was BR’s first title at the senior girls’ level in the sport since 2007.
Winners of the opening set, 25-22, the visiting Celtics fell 25-8 in the second set. After that wakeup call, however, second-place Bishop Ryan bounced back impressively for 25-20 and 25-21 decisions.
The result advances Bishop Ryan to a Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference AAA semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 26 against the Halton Catholic champions.
“In the second set today they dominated us,” Celtics coach Julie Kersley said. “There was nothing we could do to win a point.
“But we rallied back to play our best.”
The Knights (12-3) defeated the Celtics (12-4) in both of their regular-season matches by 2-1 scores.
“Our team is amazing,” Celtics libero Isabella Knezevic said. “We worked really hard to get here and finished like we should have.
“We trusted each other and I think that’s a big part of it. We had some rough times but then we came back. Everything worked out.”
According to the Bishop Ryan coach, defence was the major reason for the victory. And a key member of that defensive effort was Grade 11 student, Knezevic, who missed some regular-season games due to a concussion and only last week was shifted from the left side to libero.
“Isabella’s defence at libero was phenomenal,” Knezevic said. “She is so cheery all the time. She’s just a happy person who brings a lot of positive energy to the court.”
Said Knezevic: “I play libero for my rep team, the Smash Raiders Volleyball Club.”
Offensively, Sofia Spoljar, Kassandra Pavlic and Cecilia Diklic provided much of the scoring for BR.
“Everyone has been showing up for practice,” Kersley said. “Everyone knew the game plan. We knew More had a strong offence at the net, so we wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to let things hit the ground.”
More coach Sean Gibson said the Knights failed to connect too many times on short shots. “We missed a lot of tips,” he said. “The girls just didn’t have that energy and it kind of cost on the back end.
“I think we did well getting silver. I’m very proud of the team.”
Gibson’s daughter, Calin, turned in outstanding all-around effort for the Knights as a setter. She was added to the Trinidad & Tobago U-20 national team in 2019.
“Calin is leading one of the workshops and seminars in Trinidad so we’ll go back over the summer and we’ll be working with the national team helping build that program,” Sean Gibson said. “This summer she’ll also be at Stanford (University) doing a volleyball clinic and training.”
The first-year More coach said Gibson and another setter — Olivia Dmitrovich – form a terrific 1-2 punch on the court for the Knights. “Olivia is one of the best in the province at her age group. Together they play a really smart game of volleyball. They are very cerebral. They kind of control where the girls are going.”
Other members of the Celtics are Olivia Cherubin, Sarah Howarth, Maria Andrejciw, Leanna Colalillo, Cassandra Owen, Valeria Herrera, Chloe Umutoni, Julia Koksanowicz, Irene Parades and Nana Samuel.
In the HWCAA junior girls’ volleyball final at Bishop Tonnos, the first-place Titans defeated the second-place Knights, 3-0. The scores were 25-13, 25-21, 25-23. Bishop Tonnos was 16-0 overall this season.
Source: Angelica Tarli