By Darryl G. Smart
Riley Hunter and his Simcoe Sabres teammates held a block party for the Delhi Raiders, who were hosting its first senior boys volleyball final since 1992.
The fourth-seeded Sabres put on a gritty display of never say die volleyball and defeated the second-seeded Raiders 3-1 (19-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-16) to claim the Athletic Association of Brant Haldimand Norfolk District 9 senior boys volleyball West Division title Thursday.
“It feels great right now,” Hunter, the Sabres’ captain, said. “We knew it was going to be tough. Going into this game we knew we had a 50/50 chance. We’re both really good teams. We just had to do what we had to do. It was all business today.”
The Sabres resilience showed early, adapting to the low ceiling at the Delhi District Secondary School gym.
“We knew that was going to be a factor,” Hunter said. “At practice we really focused on keeping the ball low.”
After rebounding from the Raiders’ first-game victory, the Sabres played a simple defensive game that seemed to frustrate the Raiders.
“They didn’t let the ball drop,” Raiders coach Ryan Gaertner said. “They wanted it pretty bad. You could tell.”
Hunter said it was just about supporting one another.
“We just wanted to stay locked in the entire game,” Hunter said. “The guys did a great job of that. We were going for every ball no matter where it was. It was all about supporting each other.”
For Hunter, the victory was huge.
“This is the reason I came back to school this year,” Hunter said. “I missed volleyball last year and have been looking forward to this for a long time. I wanted to go out with a bang.”
Now the Sabres will face the Dunnville Panthers for the AABHN D9 championship on Tuesday at 4:30pm, at Dunnville Secondary School. The Panthers earned their spot in the final thanks to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-21) win over the Hagersville Hurricanes.
But before the AABHN championship game, the Panthers will hit the road and take on the Raiders in the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association A qualifier at 3pm.