M’CHIGEENG – The MSS senior boys’ volleyball team has walked away with gold medals from its North Shore Secondary Schools’ Association (NSSSA) A division championship, offering a strong finish to the team’s undefeated record in the regular season and a ticket to play at this week’s Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletics (NOSSA) championship.
“These guys had lots of potential, even when I saw them play in their final last year when I finished coaching the junior boys. I always said we could go a long ways even though we had small numbers,” said coach Mike Wesno.
They began practicing right at the start of the school year and Mr. Wesno said the team was extremely dedicated to the intensive schedule.
“We’ve been practicing four nights a week for two hours,” he said. “We’ve had a huge number of practices and I could probably count on one hand the number of times when a player wasn’t there. They have total dedication and are working not just to win but to get better at playing volleyball.”
In the academic calendar, the boys’ volleyball and girls’ basketball schedules tend to overlap. Soon, the four days of practice time from 3 to 5 pm after school was reduced to two nights per week. However, the boys resolved to come in from 5 to 7 pm on the two days when the basketball team had use of the gym.
“They love the game; they’re a good bunch of guys,” said Mr. Wesno.
He was joined on the coaching and advising staff by Derek Debassige and Andrew Argall, both of whom are MSS volleyball alumni, with the former having played at the varsity level at McMaster University and the latter at University of Guelph. Mr. Wesno said he often learned more about the game and coaching from the two seasoned players.
This is Mr. Wesno’s first season coaching the senior boys’ team; he coached the junior team up until last year and many of his senior players are students with whom he has previously worked.
The senior boys have had an incredible season to date. They went undefeated in the regular season, winning their 15 games in 30 straight sets. They would not lose a single set in the year until their first challenger in the finals, Elliot Lake, as they took four to win over the best-of-five series.
Their challenge in the championship match was against the “always-tough” Espanola team, but the boys proved their mettle and defeated the rivals in three straight sets amidst the loud cheers of Mustangs fans who had come to watch the game.
“Most of the school bought out and came down to watch the final,” said Mr. Wesno. “It was excellent senior high school ball—hard hitting and hard blocking rounded out with exciting and sometimes desperate defensive plays.”
MSS has a strong culture of volleyball, something Mr. Wesno attributed to the deep commitment of the former coach and the expert instruction from outside of the school, such as Mr. Debassige.
The team’s next challenge is the NOSSA finals in Sudbury today and tomorrow, November 13 and 14. They are up against high-calibre teams from Sudbury and North Bay, including tournament host Horizon.
Mr. Wesno said his team consists of some of the biggest jumpers, strongest hitters and blockers, as well as a very strong setter. They are facing some injuries, but some teammates have stepped forward to assume positions they had not previously played to help close those gaps.
“As far as our team at NOSSA, I think we’ve got a legit shot. We’ve come a long way fast this year with a lot of effort and practice,” said Mr. Wesno, adding that all of his players have the potential to play at the varsity level in the post-secondary environment.
Mr. Wesno concluded by noting the power of sport to bring strangers together and make friendships grow closer.
“It makes me so proud to see guys from different communities who are great friends and great teammates on the court,” he said.