By Darryl G. Smart
If there was a perfect time for spectators to watch Athletic Association of Brant Haldimand Norfolk volleyball, Monday night was it.
Playing in front of a crowd of spectators for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the second-ranked Delhi Raiders and sixth-ranked Simcoe Sabres both needed five games at Valley Heights Secondary School to punch their tickets to the AABHN senior boys volleyball West Division final.
“It was pretty exciting to play in front of people,” a smiling Riley Hunter said. “This was a great game. Both teams gave the crowd lots to cheer about, especially down the stretch.”
In the final game of the semifinal double-header, the Sabres, who were 4-4 during the regular season, knocked off the first-place Valley Heights Bears 3-2 (25-22, 19-25, 25-17, 18-25, 16-14).
“It was one of those games where we really had to keep calm,” Hunter, the Sabres’ captain, said. “Our team has really come together as a group and today we showed that. We’re all pretty excited to be going to the final.”
Hunter said this is exactly where he and his teammates were hoping to be at this point in the season.
“We wanted to be in the final,” Hunter said. “That’s what we have been working for.”
The Sabres road to the AABHN final has been a long one, beginning the season 1-3, before turning things around and now boasting a three-game winning streak.
“We just have to keep working hard and stay calm,” Hunter said of the final. “We know what we have to do.”
The Raiders, who were 5-3 in the regular season, defeated the 4-4 Holy Trinity Titans in a thriller, 3-2 (17-25, 25-22, 21-25, 27-26, 15-8).
The guys really need to dig deep today and they did exactly that,” Raiders coach Ryan Gaertner said. “They didn’t hang their heads when we started slow and they didn’t hang their heads when calls didn’t go our way. They persevered which is great to see.”
Like Hunter and the rest of the players, Gaertner was extremely happy to see playoff volleyball return to as normal as possible with spectators.
“You could feel the excitement,” Gaertner said. “We all have been missing it. It’s great for hte kids. You can tell it gave them that extra jump.”
Thursday, the Raiders hope to take advantage of home court advantage, with Delhi District Secondary School hosting the junior and senior finals. The junior game begins at 3pm, with the seniors to follow at 4:30pm.
The Simcoe Sabres and Holy Trinity Titans will tangle in the AABHN junior boys volleyball West Division final on Thursday at DDSS.
The two top teams in the West Division made quick work of their opponents to earn their spots in the final.
The Sabres, who were the top team in the league with it’s 8-0 record swept the Delhi Raiders 3-0 (25-6, 25-19, 25-9).
In the other semifinal, the 5-3 Titans beat the 4-4 Valley Heights Bears 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-20).