By Dylan Perego
Wednesday night in Hamilton was a tale of two extremes for the Humber Hawks men’s and women’s volleyball teams. Both matchups saw three-set sweeps, with each school coming away with a victory apiece.
The Humber women’s volleyball team survived a second set scare to defeat the Mohawk Mountaineers in a straight-set victory, 25-17, 25-23 and 25-11. The women’s team capped off a perfect 18-0 regular season in the process.
From the beginning of the match, the Hawks created momentum that would carry with them throughout most of the night, stringing together multiple runs of unanswered points that had Mohawk scrambling. Mohawk failed to muster a string of three or more consecutive points in the first set, leading to a quick advantage for the Hawks.
The dawn of the second set proved to be a different story for the Mountaineers, however, as the team came out with evident motivation after three consecutive aces from Celine Blanchette. Mohawk put up six of seven points following the trio of aces, along with another six of eight following a timeout from Hawks head coach Chris Wilkins. The Hawks were able to hang tough, however, managing to squeak out a 25-23 set victory with a dagger from Devan O’Connor to seal the second set victory.
The run in the second set appeared to have emptied the gas tank for the Mountaineers, as the team came out mostly flat and allowed the Hawks to strike for a convincing 25-11 set victory to earn the match.
The theme of the night was power for the Hawks, with Devan O’Connor, Brynne Coleman and Breanna Golding providing the fire on offense. For Mohawk, Blanchette recorded an impressive five aces, with the opposing service game in dire need of consistency.
With the women’s team reigning victorious, the men’s team looked to avenge a straight-set loss to Mohawk on Dec. 1, but, yet again, failed to take a single set. Humber lost in straight sets 30-28, 25-18 and 25-11.
The first set proved to be the most closely contested of the three, needing extra points to decide the victor. Both teams played tight defense and traded explosive points, with Mohawk being the first to string together enough points for the victory.
Despite a stellar effort to open the contest, Humber was unable to duplicate the effort put forth in the opening set, as Mohawk continued their high-power attack on the Hawks defense, taking each subsequent set in more commanding fashion.
After the game, head coach Wayne Wilkins said the game plan for the Hawks was to attack out of the gate, and he believes they accomplished their goal.
“We really geared up for the first set, and we had a couple of goals. One, our biggest game is Saturday, this game on the standings really meant nothing, if anything maybe a little momentum going into OCAA’s,” Wilkins said in reference to the upcoming cross-over game for the Hawks prior to the provincial playoffs.
“Our first set was the goal and we played really well. I actually think we let a few points drop here and there, and if not we could have walked away with that first set. And I feel totally okay with that.”
Wilkins said the defeat in the lengthy first set didn’t take any wind out of the team’s sails.
“In a normal situation, you take this same game next week in playoffs, I don’t think we are deflated,” Wilkins said. “Today, the guys are smart enough to understand the game ultimately did not matter in the standings. I think we went into the second set a little deflated and it took us a little bit to get back into it.”
Second year middle blocker Andrew Blakey-Lopez echoed his coach’s statements, saying that enduring the first set affected his team, but also showed what they are capable of in close contests.
“It did and it didn’t,” Blakey-Lopez said in regards to the set deflating the team, “Obviously when they start going on those long runs it kind of makes you fade a little bit, but at the same time with a team like we have, today, and this year, I think it motivates us to learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen the next time.”
The men’s team will host La Cite of the east division in a crossover game to determine who will advance to the OCAA tournament next weekend in Hamilton, while the women’s team look to remain unbeaten this season as they aim for their remarkable 10th consecutive provincial title beginning on Feb. 24.