Experience on Crusaders side as they eye OFSAA medal

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Getting ranked fourth by the OFSAA seeding committee gives the St. Mary Crusaders senior boys volleyball team confidence, but it means little else. Above anything, it really just confirms something they already knew.

After winning their first-ever EOSSAA senior boys volleyball championship, players on St. Mary said they thought they had a realistic chance of earning a medal at OFSAA. Now that they’ve been given the fourth spot heading into the Ontario high school A-division championships, which runs Thursday to Saturday in Belleville, it lets them know outside forces share their belief.

“We think that we can medal, so we think the seeding is appropriate now,” said Crusaders Erik Goodberry. St. Mary has talked about this year’s OFSAA going back to the 2017 season. This team has been somewhat groomed since last year to make a potential run at an Ontario title. Coach Dennis Hutt always stressed that getting to OFSAA wasn’t a make-or-break situation this season and the goal was to always have a good time, but the team had their eye on this goal for a long time and it always seemed like they were having more and more fun the higher they climbed up the ladder.


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“The main thing is to have a lot of fun along the way. If you make it (to OFSAA) it’s a bonus. If you don’t, well life goes on,” said Hutt.

At first glance, the Crusaders team looks similar to last year’s squad. They have a ton of energy and feed off each other. Sam Fahrngruber is still setting up spikes and they have a quite a bit of offensive power at the net with Mark Meeson, Malcolm Spence, and Tysen Crooke.

This year’s team is more defensively sound and routinely back each other up. A strong offence will take a high school team to a certain level, but defence becomes increasingly more important as you go up the ranks and play the best schools in the province. That side of St. Mary’s game is, arguably, their strongest asset.

The Crusaders have said all season that the experience of competing in last year’s OFSAA, which was an AA-division tournament, is huge for them this time around.

There were some big moments at the 2017 OFSAA for the Crusaders when they played in front of home crowds. There were times when they pushed the momentum and other times when they were getting punched by it. Hutt’s philosophy has always been, “The more touches the better.” It’s the reason he takes his team to so many outof-town tournaments throughout the season and the ideology rings true when competing at OFSAA. The more big pressure moments you’re in, the more you embrace it.

“It’s quite big,” said Hutt about having some OFSAA experience under their belt. “They know the routines, they know what to expect, and they’re familiar with the schedule.” St. Mary sure looked comfortable in the EOSSAA final last week when they trailed St. Michael after the first set. They weren’t worried and didn’t unnecessarily stray from their game plan. It’s moment like that when you wonder if it stemmed from last year’s OFSAA touch.

The Crusaders didn’t win EOSSAA last year. The only fire going into the 2017 OFSAA, said Goodberry, was to prove they belonged in the tournament and weren’t just there because they hosted.

This season they provided enough evidence to make a case that they have a great shot at earning a medal.

“Now that we’ve won it gives us that extra confidence, that extra win under our belt, and the extra knowledge we’ve gained from that match,” said Goodberry. “It really fires us up and makes us feel extra confident and makes us feel that we can take on the competition at OFSAA.”