Danforth Redhawks’ senior boys volleyball team is going to have the rest of the South Region targeting them this season.
After bouncing rival Riverdale out of the semifinals in three straight sets (25-18, 29-27, 25-11), the six-pack went on to claim the 2010 regional title against Bloor Bears in three sets as well (28-26, 25-18, 26-24).
This year poses a new challenge to Danforth coach Mark Graul as he only has three returning members from that AAA OFSAA-qualifying squad.
“We have a strong core of juniors coming up, and they play a lot of nine-ball so it should be interesting if they can gel together,” he said, adding captain Aidan Haslett, Ertugrul Karakus and Mike Samarasekera are the three veterans.
Post Sept. 7 tryout, Graul was optimistic by a showing of 20 kids, including two walk-ons.
“It’s looking pretty promising,” he said. “We have a couple of guys who played basketball last year that are attempting to come out for the team.
“That should be interesting to see how that turns out,” he added. “They were pretty intimidated because of the speed.”
Making the transition from the junior squad this year will be setter Connor O’Brien, middle Cameron Aitkens, power Andy Phan, Sean McNamara and Congson Dang.
Graul admitted fall is the busiest time of the year regarding boys’ sports teams, as volleyball competes with football, tennis and soccer.
The student population at Danforth in 2010-11 was 1,247, but with Danforth’s Mathematics, Science and Technology program, students from outside the area bring in their academic skills as well as their athleticism.
“It’s bringing in a lot of kids from outside the area in Toronto,” Graul said. “They have to apply to the program, so quite a few of our kids on our volleyball team are from that program.”
That in turn adds more fuel to the ongoing fire between the Raiders and the Redhawks.
“(The rivalry) is good for both schools,” he said. “It brings a lot of spirit and I know they want to beat us as badly as we want to beat them.
“It doesn’t matter what the talent level is, there’s always some sort of pride in who walks away winning,” he added. “It’s really good to see two schools that competitive.”
When asked if he chatted up Riverdale’s coach Ryan Wakelin for his gameplan over the summer, Graul chuckled.
“I’m pretty sure I know what he’s going to try and do against them,” he said. “It’s really fun coaching against Ryan because he’s a really good friend.”
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