By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
While it’s never fun to lose in the finals, both the men’s and women’s Durham Lords volleyball teams had their heads held high as they returned to campus with a pair of Ontario Collegiate Athletics Association (OCAA) silver medals.
Both teams took part in the provincial championships at the end of last month that saw them stand up against Ontario’s best teams.
For the women, there wasn’t much to improve on in terms of their play as the team went undefeated through 20 games of their regular season before entering the final championship.
However, the strong play wasn’t enough to topple the Humber Hawks who defeated the women in straight sets to take the OCAA title for the 10th straight year.
“It does sting a little bit that we didn’t win the gold,” says head coach Tony Clarke. “I just wish we would have competed a little harder against them. However, to finish the season 20 and 1, I’m pretty satisfied with that.”
The silver medal marks the second time in three years the Lords have earned the title after the women fell to Humber in the same match two years ago.
Now, Clarke says he’s already setting his sights on next season, and trying to fill some large holes in his roster after the departures of key veterans, including Allison Marshall, one of the team’s top kill leaders.
“We’ve just got to keep on bringing in the players that we need to compete at that level all the time,” Clarke says. “We’ll be much younger than this year, so it will be a bit of a rebuilding year.”
Despite that, Clarke says a lot of the younger players on the team this year will benefit from the experience of reaching the OCAA finals.
“Hopefully, that will help them and build their confidence and push to get back there again,” he says.
For the men, their road to the finals was a rocky one, and required a Cinderalla story of sorts as the men needed to take down the top-ranked Fanshawe Falcons in order to get there.
For fifth-year player Mike Harper, the victory over the Falcons was perhaps the team’s best match of the season.
“We went in as a huge underdog,” says fifth-year player Mike Harper. However, it would appear the Lords weren’t the only ones looking for the upset.
“It seemed like every team that was at provincials or watching it was rooting for us because they wanted to see the number one team go down by an underdog team,” he says.
And while the big 3-0 victor over the Falcons was enough to get the Lords to the final for the first time since 2006, the momentum was not enough to host Mohawk Mountaineers in the gold medal game.
The silver medal marks the fourth for the men’s program.
“It’s kind of bittersweet losing in the finals, but it is Durham’s first medal in 11 years and also the first medal for an east team in seven years, so we still brought that home,” Harper says.