The midway point of the OCAA (Ontario College Athletic Association) is now upon us, and it is clear that the three Cambrian Golden Shield varsity teams participating in the winter sport schedules will have their work cut out for them, as they shoot for a playoff berth in 2017.
While none will hit the “flip the calendar” mark sitting in a playoff spot, the Cambrian women’s volleyball crew have the least amount of ground to make up, with some key matchups looming early in the new year; make or break games that will quite likely decide their fate.
Coach Dale Beausoleil and company closed out the 2016 segment of their schedule with a split on the road during the first weekend in December, sweeping aside the Conestoga Condors in three sets, but suffering that same fate at the hands of the Niagara Knights during the Sunday afternoon game.
The Golden Shield shared the wealth nicely in their 25-14, 25-18, 25-16 win over Conestoga, with Jillian Vallier (12 kills) and Emily Clark (9) showing the way, while Kailey Bastien (6), Hayley Chisholm (5) and Amanda Kring (5) all contributing nicely as well.
Setter Kendra Muffo continued her on-going development in her rookie season, recording no less than 30 assists, while Chisholm and Kring combined for 19 digs, with Chisholm also topping the charts in service aces with four.
Facing Niagara the next day, the Shield came up just short, losing 18-25, 18-25, 23-25. Kring proved to be most effective at the net, finishing with seven kills, with Vallier close behind at five and Chisholm adding three.
With the split, the Cambrian women (3-6) sit in a 7th place tie with the Redeemer Royals (3-5), with the latter closing out their schedule by facing the undefeated Humber Hawks (8-0). The Shield will head into the Christmas break with victories against the Boréal Vipères (0-9), Conestoga (1-8) and Redeemer on their resumé.
The swing games included a five set loss to the Fanshawe Falcons (4-5) and opening game loss to the Sheridan Bruins (4-4). Cambrian is going to need to leap-frog at least one of those teams, all while putting some distance between themselves and Redeemer, in order to give themselves a shot at yet another cross-over upset in the quarter-finals.
The final nine game stretch includes a key home-set, right out of the gate, with the Mohawk Mountaineers (5-3) and Niagara in town on January 13th and 14th. The Shield will also catch Redeemer (Jan 27th) and Conestoga (Feb 4th) at home, but will likely need one surprise win, on the road, over either Sheridan (Jan 21st) or Fanshawe (Feb 12th) to return to the playoffs.
The Cambrian men have a tougher row to hoe, sitting with a record of 1-8, and with the troika of Sheridan, St Clair and Conestoga all just one rung above them at 4-5. If nothing else, coach Tom Sutton and company would like to add a couple more teams to the list of opponents that the Golden Shield have conquered, a grouping that currently includes only the winless Collège Boréal Vipères.
Still, reaching a four or five win plateau does not appear to be outside of the realm of possibilities, with Cambrian certainly within shouting distance in several matches, including a 19-25, 22-25, 18-25 loss to Conestoga on December 2nd.
Captain Isaac Claveau was a beast, offensively for the visitors, recording a game-high 12 kills, with Sheldon Root next in line with five. Defensively speaking, Lucas Claveau paced the Cambrian crew with six digs, with brother Isaac and Harry Singh just one back at five. Root drilled two of the three Shield service aces in the match, with Lucas Claveau getting the other.
The northern lads started well enough the next afternoon in Niagara, beaten 26-24 in the opening set, but then found themselves challenged in trying to rein in the Knights, who outscored Cambrian 25-12, 25-16 in the final two sets.
The Claveau twins combined for ten kills versus Niagara, with Root (3) and Abu Dumbuya (2) also in the mix, while Alex Beaton provided a helping hand at setter to fellow newcomer Jérémie Lachapelle. Brandon Moxam topped all players on the court in digs on Sunday with seven.
With a schedule that mirrors the Cambrian women, the men can look forward to hosting Conestoga on February 4th, with Niagara (5-4) on January 14th also a match to watch. In fact, other than the Fanshawe Falcons (8-1) and Mohawk Mountaineers (7-1), all other OCAA opponents would likely be classified as “beatable” by Sutton and his squad.
Though not in action this past weekend, the Cambrian women’s basketball team had already shown encouraging signs of increased competitiveness, knocking off the Sheridan Bruins at home near the end of November, 75-73.
Still, a 69-54 loss the very next weekend to the previously winless Sault Cougars was certainly not what coach Nambogga Sewali was hoping for. The Shield did receive a very solid performance from rookie Alyssa Short (14 points), with fellow newcomer Taylor Caverley-Grasby close behind with 13.
Local products Megan Desormeaux and Emily Derks joined veteran Karlee Duggan in the grouping at eight. Unfortunately, the second half schedule does the young team no favours, as the Golden Shield will face the top three of Humber (8-0), St Clair (7-2) and Mohawk (6-2), with Fanshawe (6-3) rounding out the stretch of double-headers.
Few will be surprised if the largest circle on the calendars of these athletes sits on Saturday, January 21st, when the Cambrian troops enjoy the opportunity to play host to Sault College, looking for a little revenge.