By Larry Moko
Coach Julie Kersley remembers her first impression of the 2019-20 Bishop Ryan Celtics senior girls’ high school volleyball team.
“From Day 1 at our first practice when I was making up the team, I said to my assistant coach ‘this could be a championship team,’” Kersley said. “I felt we had so much athletic ability. I was just hoping we could come together.”
The Celtics haven’t won anything yet but they took another step towards the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league title with a 3-0 semifinal playoff victory over the visiting St. Mary Crusaders Wednesday (25-15, 25-21, 25-18).
The other semifinal saw the first-place St. Thomas More Knights defeat the fourth-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, 3-1 (25-17, 25-14, 27-29, 25-20).
The Knights and the second-place Celtics will decide a champion Wednesday, Feb. 19 at More.
“We won the junior championship last year and it was the same group of girls,” said Kassandra Pavlic who, along with Sofia Spoljar and Nana Samuel, accounted for most of BRs points against the third-place Crusaders. “We have good chemistry and work well together on the court.”
The Celtics trailed 17-14 in the third set when Kersley called a time out to stop the visitors’ momentum. And whatever she said was taken to heart because BR rallied for eight unanswered points en route to the win.
“Our defence was starting to slack,” the Celtics coach said of her request for a pause in the action. “We needed to move, talk and make sure that nothing was hitting the ground.”
According to Kersley, recent impressive regular-season victories over highly-regarded Brebeuf and St. Mary carried over in Bishop Ryan’s first two playoff wins.
“We couldn’t recover after we let them get on that (third-set) run,” St. Mary coach Chiara Salvatore said. “Today we were definitely outplayed. The girls worked hard. A few bounces didn’t go our way. That affected our momentum, energy and intensity.
“We’re really young. I have five junior-age players and one returnee from last year’s senior team.”
Kersley said Pavlic – a Defensa club player and a Grade 11 student – turned in another outstanding performance for the Celtics.
“Kassandra is my most consistent player,” the BR coach said. “She’s strategic and all over the place. She sees where the open spots are and plays to it.
“She may not have the biggest swing but she is the most dominant person on the court.”
St. Mary’s season isn’t over. The Crusaders move on to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference AA semifinals against the top-ranked Halton Public representative. That match is scheduled for Feb. 26. Last year, at the AA level, St. Mary reached the quarter-final round of the OFSAA tournament.
More, incidentally, scored a pair of 2-1 decisions over Bishop Ryan in their two meetings this season.
Source: Marnie Jadon