By Larry Moko
The Gaels dropped a 3-2 decision to the visiting Cardinal Newman Cardinals in an unusual Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior boys’ high school volleyball match Thursday. It was a contest that saw the Cardinals drop two of the first three sets but gain momentum when the game ball had to be replaced with the score tied at 19-19 in the fourth set.
Newman went on to take the fourth, 25-22. They also breezed to a 15-5 victory in the deciding set.
“It was absolutely odd,” Cathedral coach Andrea McCabe said of the ball situation. “I’ve never seen that in the middle of a game.”
Seconds after a Cathedral service ace, the ball was returned to the Gaels side of the net and, at that point, they showed it to referee Alan McColman who determined a new ball would be required.
“Their team noticed the ball was damaged,” Newman coach Mike Fuchs said. “Something happened to it. I guess a panel on it or something ripped.”
Said McCabe: “Brian Decosta, who is actually a baseball player, served the ball and I think he killed it. That’s when it happened, on the serve. The ball is wrecked. We’ll never use it any more. Normally, I have two game balls out. Unfortunately, it was a crazy day and I wasn’t ready with the other one.”
Fuchs provided the replacement ball. It, however, had to be pumped up with a little more air by McColman before play could resume.
“Our serving was not good at the beginning,” Fuchs said. “I think that really improved as the match went along. We got progressively better with serving which meant we were giving ourselves a chance to get comfortable.”
According to Fuchs, the Cardinals have been practising in a small gym and it was an initially an adjustment for the team to deal with the larger serving dimensions at Cathedral.
“I think that’s what kind of threw us off,” the Cardinals coach said.
The Cardinals got a solid performance by versatile veteran Gabe Anton, who was the team’s Most Valuable Player last season.
“Gabe is one of our more experienced players,” Fuchs said. “He’s a strong rep player (U18) for the Mountain Athletic Club. He’s has played a bunch of different positions for us. You can really put him anywhere.”
A Grade 12 student, Anton points out that when he first started playing volleyball he trained to be quicker because he was the shortest left side in the league. “I have a speed advantage over almost anybody I play with because I have a background of basketball and jiu-jitsu.”
Anton said Newman recovered from its slow start by focusing, putting points away and making smarter decisions. “We got it together and showed what we can really do in the fifth set,” he said.
Cathedral (0-2) also lost a close five-setter to St. Thomas More recently. The score in the fifth was 19-17. Newman (2-0) went the distance, too, in its opener before taking down the ACMT Jaguars. It was 18-16 in the fifth set.
“I’m actually thrilled that it went five against great teams like St. Thomas More and Cardinal Newman,” McCabe said. “Even though I’m carrying a team of 17, I’ve basically got 11 rookies. Of the boys on the court, only one of them really played last year. So it’s a rebuilding year. You’d expect this at the start of the season.
“So trying to help them build that character and grit takes time. I think it all boils down to experience. When you come up against a team that has a good club player, you’re going to see that player take charge when adversity happens.”
One of the most entertaining and energetic Gaels on the court was left side Vladimir Corpuz, the shortest player on either team.
“Vladi has a vertical that is insane,” McCabe said. “He just hangs up there all day.”
In other HWCAA senior boys’ volleyball action Thursday, the defending champion St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves topped ACMT 3-0, the St. Mary Crusaders swept the Bishop Tonnos Titans in three straight and the Bishop Ryan Celtics defeated St. Thomas More, 3-1.
Source: Marnie Jadon