Mustangs top Irish for AAA crown
The Saint Michael Mustangs obviously prefer to do things the hard way.
The Mustangs topped the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in five sets Wednesday to capture the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association senior girls AAA volleyball championship on their home court before a packed gym.
The Mustangs took home the title in dramatic fashion, winning the first two games 25-23, 25-16 before the Irish stormed back to take the next two games 25-19, 25-11, setting the stage for a 15-12 St. Mike’s triumph in the final set.
The Mustangs advance to the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (SOSSA) AAA playdowns Friday at Notre Dame, although that is subject to change due to the weather.
“It’s awesome,” Mustangs coach Eric Germano said. “It’s only my second zone championship and it’s a great feeling but it’s an even better feeling for the school, to be able to give something back after two years of messed up athletics.
“I wanted to give something to the group because I thought they deserved it. It’s a phenomenal group of girls and really good athletes. It’s a pleasure coaching them.”
St. Mike’s Julia Breen, who was a major factor in her team’s win thanks to her booming serve, was all smiles afterward.
“It felt good,” the 16-year-old, Grade 11 student said. “We haven’t had much of an audience for most of our games so it was a big difference for us. I think it helped a lot.”
She is looking forward to SOSSA.
“I’m excited for SOSSA,” she said. “A little nervous but we’re a good team. We’ll try our best and have some fun.
“I thought we were going to do good this year. We did good last year.”
Breen, who plays at the club level for the Niagara Rapids, admitted things got tense as the Fighting Irish mounted their comeback.
“You just have to push through and not let the pressure get to you,” she said. “It’s a stressful game. It’s a very personal thing. You make a mistake, it affects everyone. You just kind of have to not let that get to you.”
Germano tipped his cap to Breen for her leadership.
“She’s phenomenal athlete, a really good volleyball player,” he said. “She’s also like a little coach on the court. It’s nice to have a bunch of those girls to help each other out so I don’t have to rely on those timeouts.”
Germano said he tried to keep things calm as the match wore on.
“We just talked about keeping it simple, playing it one point at a time,” he said. “Just keeping them in the right mindset to be able to claw away and they were able to do that.”
Germano is eager to see who the Mustangs take on at SOSSA.
“Knowing this group of girls we’ll be ready to play whoever we end up playing at whatever time,” he said.
Notre Dame coach Ryan DeFoe had no issues with his club’s effort.
“I felt we played a very decent Game 1 but we got caught with their best server (Breen) and she rattled off a lot of serves we couldn’t handle,” he said. “Sometimes that happens but overall we ran out of points there. We stormed back. Game 2 was the game that was the Achilles heel. We came out flat. It wasn’t anything apparent, it was just point after point after point of just not keeping our composure and not doing the things we normally like to do.
“We had a couple of bad bounces in Game 5 but a couple of bad bounces shouldn’t impact your outcome if you’re playing well.”
Other members of the Mustangs are: Rayna Hall, Jaime Manlow, Averie Thompson, Hilda Jongwe, Elisabeth Oludele, Olivia LeRose, Jordan Howcroft, Kallista Elliott, Ashlyn Fehr, Claire Irwin, Miriam Wambulwa, Gabby Moutilika.
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