Halloween provided some volleyball terror in the second set for Newtonbrook North Stars.
The senior boys squad opened their Tier 2 playoffs against George S. Henry at home on the hallowed evening.
Though the outcome was a 2-0 (25-16, 25-18) triumph, the Lions power Matthew Chase threw a scare into the confident North Stars.
That’s when captain Arzhang Shahbazi grounded his crew mentally.
“I played with the opposition player (Chase) for a while, and he’s pretty good,” he said. “I’m like, ‘If we don’t clean up our act now, he’s going to keep scoring and we’re going to lose. Guys, get low, play tight, you can do it up’ and they did.”
That stolid leadership was what impressed Newtonbrook coach Murad Aliyev.
“(Shahbazi’s) the noisemaker of the team,” he said. “He knows what to say, he knows what gets them up.
“There was that one time at the end, when it was 21-13 for us and they got five in a row,” he added. “He got them moving.”
It was also Shahbazi’s service that proved troublesome for the Lions. He picked up aces in both sets.
The lack of tracking the ball down and passing it was the Achilles’ heel, said Henry coach Jeremy Crane.
“It’s really tough to run our offence if you’re not starting off with a good pass,” he said. “Our setter is a rookie, so for him to be doing good sets on the run, he needs good passing.”
With disappointment rising in his voice, he admitted his charges weren’t enthusiastic enough to be vying for the Tier 2 championship.
“We played very poorly today, which is disappointing,” he said. “I think because it was a Tier 2 playoff game that our guys were already deflated.
“They hadn’t made the Tier 1 playoffs. Instead of deciding what we could do in the Tier 2 playoffs we, to see if we could win that, we had our worst game of the year.”
In contrast, Newtonbrook his hungry for any chance they can get for a title.
With Georges Vanier Vikings on the slate for the semis, Shahbazi is confident his crew can put the final nail in their North York rivals.
“First of all, we’ve got to pass, and we have to get together as a team,” he said. “When balls are flying all over the place we have to set, bump, spike, try to win this game and bring a championship home.”
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