Familiar Foes Expected to Challenge for Title

Region of Peel Secondary Schools Volleyball Preview

By DAVID WINER

Eighteen teams started the 2016-17 ROPSSAA (Region of Peel Secondary Schools Athletic Association) Senior Boys Volleyball season on Sept. 28 with a clean slate, but the blurry impressions of the names ‘Lions’ and ‘Storm’ were evident to those willing to look a little closer.

After all, Rick Hansen Storm and Mississauga Lions have made the league their own personal sandbox to fight in over the past 15 years, winning 11 titles between the two of them.

When the two powerhouses tended to falter, the Mayfield Mavericks, Robert Hall Wolfpack, North Park Vikings and Brampton Centennial Bucks were there to pounce, winning one title apiece.

Will this be one of those odd years? There are 16 other teams, with varying degrees of talent and experience certainly hoping so.

And each coach, whether realistically, or not, is crossing his and her fingers hoping that the terrestrial volleyballs will align in such a way, to make it the year of the Vikings, Mavericks, Tigers, Falcons, Knights, or fill in the team name here.

According to Rick Hansen’s long-time mentor Dave McAllister, who has moonlighted as head coach of the Sheridan Bruins for five years, assisted the McMaster Marauders for six years and University of Toronto Blues, for two, success often depends on the number of club players a school has.

“Great teams have lots of club players and really good, quality coaching,” said McAllister, who has also assisted with Volleyball Canada’s juniors. “Good teams have a couple of club players and really good coaching.”

An infusion of club players from the successful Pakmen Volleyball Club certainly helps explain the previous successes of the Mississauga Lions, who have won six of the past 10 years, while also demonstrating why St. Marcellinus Spirit is getting the love befitting a co-favorite, even though they didn’t have a Senior program last year and have never won a championship. However, it wouldn’t account for the successes of the Rick Hansen Storm, who have won two titles over the past 10 years, while being a finalist, eight times.

The Storm has, errr, stormed to the top of the standings consistently despite having only one club player last year, and none this time around.

That’s where the coaching comes in. And McAllister has high praise for the number of teachers and former students who give him more than a handful of helping hands during the season. That varies from other schools where it’s often left to one courageous and dedicated coach to handle the boys’ and girls’ junior and senior programs single-handedly.

Secondary school teams are also fortunate, at times, to have super-talented feeder schools, that stress volleyball participation.

“The best feeder school is David Leeder with (Pakmen founder and David Leeder teacher) Kelly (Smith)…for his passion for volleyball. (And) those kids go mostly to Mississauga (Secondary), or (St.) Marcellinus,” explained McAllister. “Now, with Pakmen Volleyball Club, there are more players in our (high school) system playing club.”

McAllister also points to several other area clubs helping to train high schoolers, including the Peel Selects in north Mississauga and Brampton; Lakeside towards Oakville and Burlington; and Toronto New Wave, which caters solely to girls. However, as one of three Ontario clubs accredited by Volleyball Canada, along with London’s Forest City and the Ottawa Mavericks, Pakmen churns out the majority of successful players.

Club players have helped high school teams so prevalently that McAllister, who has been coaching at the high school level for 30 years, is considering establishing club teams out of Rick Hansen once again, as he did from 2000-2006.

So, here is a list of teams vying for playoff spots this season. Thirteen teams participated in this inaugural team preview, while St. Thomas Aquinas (0-2), Brampton Centennial (0-1), Loyola 0-2) and Streetsville (2-0) failed to reply, and Iona (1-0) chose not to participate.

All participating schools have ‘AAA’ student populations of 951 or more students, except for Streetsville, Iona and Applewood, which are ‘AA’ (501-950 students) schools, and Brampton Christian, with fewer than 500 students.
Each coach was also invited to divulge this year’s Team to Beat, as well as a Cinderella pick.

The top seven seeded teams, based on previous results, coaches comments and talent levels, are as follows;
1. Mississauga Lions
2. St. Marcellinus Spirit
3. Rick Hansen Storm
4. North Park Vikings
5. Philip Pocock Pirates
6. Mayfield Mavericks
7. Streetsville Tigers

SOUTH CONFERENCE
MISSISSAUGA LIONS
2015 Record – 13-0
2016 Record – 2-0

Head Coach – Brent Austin

Key Departures – Left side Parvir Jhajj graduated and will suit up for Sheridan College Bruins

Key Veterans – Saad Shaikh, Arjun Selhi, Harnoor Grewal, Deman Delut, Navreet Suhan

Key Additions – Avy Bath, Matthew Cheung, Yashdeep Marwaha

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How can you improve on perfection? After a perfect 13-0 record last season, Lions went on to capture gold at the ROPSSAA championships, and represented the Region superlatively at OFSAA capturing the silver medal.

And, other than the pressure of knowing every team will be out to tame the Lions, ROPSSAA fans can expect more of the same in 2016.

“With five starters returning, and a strong Junior group moving up, the team has lots of depth and competition for playing time,” said head coach Brent Austin.
“Strong” is an understatement when referring to the graduating Juniors, who won back-to-back Junior ROPSSAA championships in 2014-15.

From that group, Avy Bath will be counted upon immediately.

“Avy will provide a solid backcourt as a libero,” said Austin, “and Matthew Cheung and Yashdeep Marwaha will battle it out for a left side spot on the team.”

Team to Beat – St. Marcellinus. Our Juniors have played them the last two years in the ROPSSAA finals

Cinderella Pick – Iona and Philip Pocock

ST. MARCELLINUS SPIRIT
2015 Record – Did Not Compete
2016 Record – 1-0
Head Coach – George Kalaouzis
Key Departures – No one
Key Veterans – No one
Key Additions – Matthew Powell, Gurnoor Bath, Vikas Ravendra, Nathan Kociancic
There is no where to go but up for the Spirit this season.

Having not entered a team last year, all the players are new to Senior action.
That, however, doesn’t mean that the Spirit is short on talent.

Head coach George Kalaouzis will be relying heavily on four Grade 10 students to lead the charge in South Division action this indoor season, including middle Matthew Powell (tournament all-star), setter Gurnoor Bath and right side Vikas Ravendra, who were star members of Mississauga Pakmen’s back-to-back 15U and 16U Canadian indoor championship teams.

Kalaouzis adds Nathan Kociancic is “the other core member” on the team.

Having placed second in the Junior league’s Central Division last year and reaching the ROPSSAA final where they lost to Mississauga Lions, the Spirit may lack depth and Senior experience, but it would be an oversight to take them lightly.

Kalaouzis considers the team’s strengths, “a desire to win, and experience in big-game situations because of their club experience.”

As mentioned previously, Bath, Powell, Ravendra and Kocianci will dictate how successful the Spirit will be.

“Gurnoor is an extremely talented setter with one of the best set of ‘hands’ in the province for high school ball,” said Kalaouzis.

Meanwhile, the coach adds, “Matthew is a strong attacker, who allows us to do a lot of different things, because he attracts so much attention.”

Rounding out the top four, Kalaouzis says, “Vikas has the tools to hit a variety of shots and is improving his blocking,” and, “Nathan is a vocal leader with high intensity, who brings a lot of passion to the team.”

It’s for those reasons, Kalaouzis is counting on an exciting campaign.

“We are a young team, but that does not mean we do not expect a lot from ourselves,” added Kalaouzis, who enters his second year at the school, and will head up both the Junior and Senior boys, as well as the Senior girls. “We have lofty ambitions and with discipline and a desire to compete, we should be competitive.”

Team to Beat – Mississauga SS will be strong. OFSAA silver medalists last year and they are returning much of their team.

Cinderella Pick – Rick Hansen – Very well coached and very disciplined.

RICK HANSEN STORM
2015 Record – 8-2
2016 Record – 1-1

Head Coach – Dave McAllister

Key Departures – Liam Butchereit (Sheridan College Bruins)
Key Veterans – captain Rushan Niazi (starter), Muneeb Munauar (starter), Brian
Dang (starter), Ali Shaikh (starter), Kevin Yuen, Jacob Sengmany, Lok-Tin Chan, Pooya Golestan-Moghaddam, Ken Nguyen (starter)
Key Additions – Teshver Kanda (starter), Laith Adi, Hasan Ahmed, Abhishek Deorukhkar, Hugh Chu (starter), Simon Ha, Japeth Panganiban, Saha Neil, Rajbir Azra, Abhay Randhawa, Owen Loo

Other than losing two tight matches to the eventual champion Mississauga Lions, Rick Hansen Storm enjoyed a perfect season last year.

However, a repeat performance may prove difficult in 2016 with only one returning starter.

Then again, this is a Dave McAllister-coached team that has reached the gold medal match 12 of the past 15 years, winning five of them.

“My team’s strengths are always quality, high character, disciplined young men who have high expectations and work really hard to live up to them,” is how McAllister characterized his players.

Unlike some of the other powerhouses in ROPSSAA, the Storm lacks a single club player and McAllister seems to revel in the supposed drawback.

“Last year we had one club kid, Liam Butchereit, and we still made it to ROPSSAA finals. We do not have any club players (this season, but) we practice extremely hard and try to win every point. We are undersized on many occasions, but we do not let it be an excuse.”

McAllister is able to make up for a lack of club players with the aid of a number of assistant coaches.

“I am extremely fortunate at Rick Hansen to have lots of teachers who want to help coach and assist. Former players come back to give back and coach,” said McAllister, with a tip of the hat to Elias Mardani. “And lots of amazing, dedicated, great kids.

“In the past we had many skilled players, extremely athletic, and long, and lots of club kids as well. We had our own club. We have lots of Grade 9 and 10 kids this year, so I might restart our school club and join the OVA (Ontario Volleyball Association).”

Having said all that, McAllister considers his team one of the Cinderella hopefuls in the league this season.

“Mississauga will be the heavy favorite. They have a strong foundation and many club athletes. St. Marcellinus should also be a quality team for the same reasons.

“(But) our team will compete for every point and will play with great enthusiasm – as always.

“I am really proud of our program, and we strive to be; great people, great students, great athletes. . .In that order.”

APPLEWOOD AXEMEN
2015 Record – 6-4 (Qualified for OFSAA ‘AA’ in Kenora)
2016 Record – 1-1
Head Coach – Heidi Kroes
Key Departures – Captain Jonathan Ocquaye-Prempeh (now with Humber Hawks), Right side and graduate Ilija Mirkovic
Key Veterans – Nikola Bozovic, Previ Scott, Stefan Tubic, Charlie Eastman
Key Additions – Lucas MacPherson, Lionel Walkowski

Axemen head coach Heidi Kroes is another coach with a hectic schedule, acting as the Senior boys’ and girls’ coach, as well as the Junior boys’ mentor.

While Kroes optimistically states, “We are ready for the challenge of a tough division and look forward to learning and developing as we play tough teams,” she also admits losing graduating Senior and captain, Jonathan Ocquaye-Prempeh, certainly left a void.

Still, Kroes adds, “Two players have come to us from Junior and are fitting in nicely,” for what she expects to be, “an attacking team.”

Team to Beat – Mississauga, St. Marcellinus, North Park
Cinderella Pick – Rick Hansen

ST JOAN OF ARC ANGELS
2015 Record – Second in Division
2016 Record – 0-1
Head Coach – Rui Andrade
Key Departures – Princeton Arlunesan (setter)
Key Veterans – Sebastian Lee (setter), Nicholas Mateus (outside hitter), Paulo Nunez (outside hitter), Mikha Muliadi (middle), Jacob Marasigan (libero)
Key Additions – Tani Oluwaseyi (right side), DJ Aban (outside hitter), Chidalu Okafor-Justin (middle)

“Considering we have no club players, we are surprisingly competitive as a result of being a very well-rounded and versatile team,” said coach Andrade, whose club placed second to Mount Carmel Crusaders last season before being eliminated by North Park Vikings in the quarter-finals. “And unlike years past, we have added some depth.

“I expect to once again be competitive and have a successful season, primarily due to a good balance of returning and new players allowing for some depth and different looks.

“We’ll make the playoffs, and possibly go as far as the semis.”

Team to Beat – Mississauga/St. Marcellinus final with Marcellinus taking it.
Cinderella Team – Us; surprise team: Streetsville

MOUNT CARMEL CRUSADERS
Head Coach – Ivana Dragicevic
2016 Record – 0-4

“The team has gotten off to a rough start, for a variety of reasons outside my control and the team’s control,” said Dragicevic. “Six Junior players, coming up, who would’ve made a difference, couldn’t try out this year.

“(Unfortunately) the team is a stripped down version of what it should have been.”

NORTH CONFERENCE
NORTH PARK VIKINGS
2015 Record – 10-0
2016 Record – 2-0
Head Coach – Colin Bowins
Key Departures – Jordi Romero Palacio, Kevin Appiah, Jovan Sangha
Key Veterans – Reagan Reid, Rohan Mahant, Bharat Shamsukha, Nirmal Khangura
Key Additions – Harrison Kennedy, Terell Brooks, Inderpreet Gill

After a perfect finish to the regular season, the Vikings came oh so close to reaching the gold medal final, losing to Rick Hansen Storm in the ROPSSAA semi-finals in the maximum five sets.

“Our team motto this year is ‘another swing’,” says coach Colin Bowins. “We have emphasized floor defense this season, because we are not a big team. We have to be able to dig the ball again and again, and capitalize on our chances.”
Perhaps small in stature, the Vikings are still high in expectations and are looking forward to an exciting campaign.

“We expect to improve throughout the whole season, and can’t wait to see what the playoffs bring!” said Bowins.

Team to Beat – Mississauga, St. Marcellinus, Rick Hansen, North Park
Cinderella Pick – Mount Carmel always has a good team, and are there at the end of the year.

PHILIP POCOCK PIRATES
2015 Record – Did Not Compete
2016 Record – 2-0
Head Coach – Patrick Downey
Key Departures – None
Key Veterans – None
Key Additions – Mike Medyk, Roman Czupiel, Cedric Micua, Brandon Gonsalves, John Gomez, Adam Gdula

The Pirates may not have fielded a Senior squad last year, but the Juniors certainly made a name for themselves.

“We finished with a perfect 10-0 record in regular season play last year,” said coach Patrick Downey. “We then qualified for the semi-finals, where we were defeated by Mississauga, the eventual ROPSSAA champions.”
And now, according to Downey, all those Juniors are moving up in hopes of enjoying more success.

“Our team’s strength begins with our co-captains Mike Medyk (setter) and Roman Czupiel (middle),” said Downey. “We have two great power hitters: Cedric Micua brings pure power, while Brandon Gonsalves has grace and finesse. John Gomez and Adam Gdula round out our starters, ensuring no ball hits the ground. Our supporting players are incredibly skilled and can fill in anywhere.

“When we play smart, we match up against anyone, and while we hope to make some noise this year with a Senior team full of Grade 11 players, watch out for us next year.”

Team to Beat – We figure Mississauga will once again be a strong team, with others like Marcellinus not far behind.

MAYFIELD MAVERICKS
2015 Record – 9-1
2016 Record – 2-0
Head Coach – Annette Robertson
Key Departures – Shawn Douglas Murray, Shariff Amos Ross, Dylan Proulx, James Scott, Mitchell Hussey, Kyle Raven
Key Veterans – Colin McClure, Hunter MacGregor, Jeremy Spula, Carter Moffatt
Key Additions – Brandon Brown, Timothy Murray, Robert Morton, Ben VanWart, Dane Hussey, Blake Sloss, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Singer, Josh Coulson, Jake Reid

Other than the lone defeat at the hands of North Park Vikings, the Mavericks went undefeated last season.

“We have four returning players and a lot of new blood this year,” said head coach Annette Robertson. “(We are) looking for leadership in our captain Colin McClure and the rest of the returning Seniors.

“It will be a year filled with growing pains,” added Robertson, “but heart should carry us along this challenging route to the playoffs.”

Team to Beat – No surprise as to the top of the heap. Mississauga has always had a very strong team and should continue to this year. Hansen seems to always put up a good fight, so we have a lot of work ahead of us.

ST. FRANCIS XAVIER TIGERS
2015 Record – Did Not Compete
2016 Record – 1-1
Head Coaches – Suzanne Stoll, Maureen Van de Ven
Key Departures – None
Key Veterans – None
Key Additions – Andrew Cianci, Ryan Wong, Luca D’Aversa

“Xavier hasn’t had a boys volleyball team for the past two seasons so me and Maureen Van de Ven have agreed to take it on for the boys,” explained Suzanne Stoll.

“So, we are essentially a new team with grit and some talent.

“This is definitely a rebuilding year for us,” Stoll added. “We are expecting Andrew Cianci, our one club player, to be a leader on the court and our No. 1 power hitter. We are also counting on our setter Ryan Wong and his leadership on the court, as well as Luca D’Aversa in the middle for his great blocking.

“We have a smart team with dedicated, hard working players.”

BRAMPTON CHRISTIAN BOBCATS
2015 Record – Did Not Compete
2016 Record – 1-0
Head Coach – Rich Fontanna
Key Departures – None
Key Veterans – Daniel Fontanna, Dilraj Grewal
Key Additions – Josh DeBoer, Daniel Cabral

The Bobcats are moving up a division after sporting a .500 mark in Tier II.
Selected from a school population of 190 students, the team may have lacked experience last season, but just about the entire squad returns for 2016.

“Last year we were in Tier II as we only had one player with Senior experience, and six brand new players to the sport,” explained coach Rich Fontanna.

“This year we have eight of the 12 players returning.”

Among the eight is setter, Daniel Fontanna and right side Dilraj Grewal.

“Daniel has the most experience, having been a setter with the Senior program since Grade 9, and our right side, Dilraj, was in Grade 10 last year and is a key offensive weapon.”

They will be joined by Junior graduates Josh DeBoer, who plays power, and Daniel Cabral, who will serve as libero and backup setter.

“Our strength is our setting and the ability to turn most plays into a good offensive chance,” said Fontanna. “Realistically, we are shooting for a playoff position out of our division, and anything more than that, would be a bonus.

“As a school of only 190 students, Tier 1 will hopefully provide great competition to prepare us for the potential to go to the OFSAA ‘A’ Championships in North Bay.”
Team to Beat – Based on last year’s results, and who is moving up from Junior, the teams in the final should be Mississauga against Marcellinus.

Cinderella Pick – My surprise pick would be Rick Hansen, though I don’t like the term ‘surprise’ as (head coach) Dave (McAllister) always has his kids very well coached and able to play against anyone. So if they make it, I think it would be an upset, but not necessarily a surprise.”

NOTRE DAME KNIGHTS
2015 Record – Did Not Compete
2016 Record – 1-2
Head Coach – Lillian Ford-King
Key Departures – None
Key Veterans – Steve Mahadeo, Christian Maneja, Chris Sousa, Chamath Dahanak, Will Charlery-Toolsie, Kashawn Brown-Lake, Vincent Lumaway
Key Additions – Jacob Martins, Prince Amoateng, Shobhit Kumar, Noah Martins, Jitesh Wadhwa, Matthew Cobb

Due to a lack of coaches, Notre Dame is fielding a combined Junior and Senior team this year, enabling all high school players a chance to compete, and an opportunity to develop experience towards next year.

“This is the first year that Notre Dame is not running a Junior program as we did not have a coach,” explained coach Lillian Ford-King. “As a result, we are building a varsity program with athletes ranging from Grades 9 through 12.”
Players moving up from the Junior program proved competitive in 2015 finishing in a second-place tie with Brampton Centennial, yet missing post-season action due to a point differential.

“It would appear that this year will be more developmental in nature for our squad,” said Ford-King, adding there are a couple players who will be leaned on heavily.

“With Jacob Martins moving up to Senior and Steve Mahadeo now in his final year, we will look to them for leadership on the court.

“The Notre Dame team may be young,” says Ford-King, “but the boys are all committed to the challenges of a Tier 1 season!”

ST. AUGUSTINE FALCONS
2015 Record – Did not Compete
2016 Record – 0-3
Head Coach – Ted Falcone
Key Departures – None
Key Veterans – None
Key Additions – Joshua Morgan, Eric Muhvic, Elijah A-Cruz, Michael Liban, Malik Gardner

“I was wondering whether we should play Tier 1 this year, but we went ahead and took a chance,” said Falcons’ head coach Ted Falcone, who, along with his players, received some encouragement their first time out, giving North Park Vikings a good fight.

“We held our own, losing 25-20 in the first set and by a similar score in the second set.”

The arrow is pointing nowhere but up, according to Falcone, for a core of youngsters.

“Look out for Joshua Morgan (outside hitter) who is only in Grade 10, middle Eric Muhvic (Grade 11), setters and opposites Elijah A-Cruz and Michael (Jello) Liban and outside hitter Malik Gardner, who, at only 5-foot-7, can block elbows over the net.

“We look forward to the Tier 1 competition, and may surprise a few.”