We were live at McMaster University for Boys' OFSAA's AAA Gold Medal Match. The games were played in Burridge Gym, in the Braley Athletic Centre on McMaster University's campus. The matches were streamed at sportslive.ca, as they have been all tournament.
The AAA Gold Medal Match was between 1st ranked Oakridge SS and 3rd ranked Regiopolos-Notre Dame. And it sure played out like a Gold Medal Match should.
The first set started out in the Oaks favour. They took an early 7-2 lead while RND struggled to find their timing between setter and middle. There were two failed quick sets in that period. RND began to find their right-side hitter, 15 John Justinich and managed to tie the score up quickly at 8-8. As the match progressed, Justinich proved to be their main source of attack. It's refreshing to see a right-side lead a team that isn't a setter. The set stayed tight, with the Oaks managing to lead for the majority. They seemed to have the set in their hands at 22-17, but suddenly RND stormed back to 22-21. The push wasn't quite enough though, and Oakridge took the first set 25-22 to lead 1:0.
The second set stayed a competitive and entertaining frame. RND's attack focused largely on Justinich, who was effective from front and backcourt, and 11 Martin Freundorfer at power. Oakridge came with a balanced attack and a larger focus on quicks to the middle. RND lead the second set until late, when Oakridge tied it 21-21. But that was as close as they would get, as RND powered to four straight points, winning 25-21 and evening the match at 1:1.
Come set three, RND had begun to find their groove. All of their early communication troubles setting were gone, and Justinich was a man on a mission. Oakridge's varied attack couldn't get momentum going even though they were getting production from all six players on the court. The high-level digging from both teams gave many long rallies, and RND would feed off the momentum of winning the majority of them. RND put a stamp on this set, winning 25-19 and coming from behind to now lead 2:1 in sets.
At the very beginning of the third set, tragedy struck. Oakridge middle 8 Kyle Richards went a step under the net and landed on the foot of an opposing blocker. He had 7 kills for the squad at the time. For any volleyball player that's rolled an ankle, they know the pain. A rolled ankle hurts immediately, and feels as though all strength to that foot has been lost. No weight can sit on it, and the only reaction is to hold it and roll to the fetal position. And so Richards did. He was already being defensively substituted by 5 Scott Clark in the backcourt, so Clark began to fill in up front.
Clark was a strong and suitable substitution, but the effect was more on moral than rotation. You could see it in the faces of every player when they saw their teammate drop. Their libero sat at the back of the court alone while Richards was carried off, other players walked around aimlessly not speaking. RND huddled together and maintained the momentum of the incredible game of volleyball that was going on before. To be honest, I don't know the final score. It ended at 2-1 for me. RND's Justinich went on to 20 kills to lead all players.
Congratulations to the Regiopolis-Notre Dame Panthers for their AAA OFSAA Gold Medal! They played an incredible weekend of volleyball and deserve the prize, injury aside.