Winning CISAA Division 1 volleyball five years in a row isn’t enough.
St. Michael’s Strikers want OFSAA gold, and if captain Taryq Sani, who also plays beach volleyball at a competitive level, has anything to do with it, they’ll succeed.
“We can win OFSAA if we play the way I know we can,” he said.
The school is rife with school spirit, as witnessed at a faculty and student pep rally on Sept. 25. Blue is everywhere, and volleyball coach Alain Arsenau razzes Sani for wearing red shorts to practice.
“Those are SAC colours,” he tells his stalwart, 6-foot-2 outside hitter: after a quick change Sani is completely in navy blue.
There’s little doubt in Arsenau’s voice that St. Mike’s can be provincial champs, but there will be one obstacle: the loss of key player Luke Beelen.
“He would have been a big X-factor for us, but he blew out his ACL playing soccer during the summer,” he said. “So, with him on the squad, I would have been very confident of our chances this year.
“We’re still going to be good, but we’re not going to be a smooth as we would have been.”
The season kicked off for the Strikers Sept. 17 at Greenwood College School, at Mt. Pleasant Road and Davisville Avenue. The Strikers handily beat the Grizzlies in three sets (25-18, 25-19, 25-11).
Still, it’s too soon to tell who could rise to the challenge of dethroning the perennial winners who have claimed top spot 11 times out of the last 12 years.
In the absence of Beelen, Arsenau said Tomas Sorra, a setter, and Rob Wharry will be big factors.
“Our goal is to win OFSAA, but before we do that we need to win the CISAA finals.” Sorra said, alongside Sani.
“We’ve had a winning tradition,” Sani added. “In the past 12 years we’ve won it 11 times, so yes, there is a target on our backs.”
The best test of St. Mike’s mettle will be at the Chatham-Kent tournament, as well as the school’s host tournament where some of the best schools in Ontario will come into town.
Sani said he’s not worried, as everyone plays a vital role in the Strikers’ success.
“Basically, everyone on our team plays an important role, whether they’re on the bench or on the court all of the time,” he said. “They’re always loud, and that environment always helps us to win.”
As for their game against their biggest rival, St. Andrew’s College, Sani spikes it home.
“Win,” he said. “Destroy them.”
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