For St. Michael’s volleyball captain Taryq Sani, there is an air of bittersweet affection for the performance he and his troupe put forth at OFSAA in November.
The Grade 12 student is signing his letter of intent to play volleyball at the University of Alberta and, even though the Strikers earned a AAA bronze in Windsor, he’s proud of the benchmarks they’ve reached together, dating back to his time in Grades 7 and 8.
“I really wished we could have gotten gold, but at the end of the day, looking at the guys we had, I’m happy to leave with what we did,” he admitted. “That’s all I can ask for.”
Joining Sani this early January day is fellow captain Tomas Sorra, and senior head coach Alain Arseneau, sharing just what makes the school’s storied success in the past 13 years tick.
“I think it comes down to an established culture that was put together by a great coaching staff, outside of myself, obviously,” Arseaneau said. “If there was something I could pinpoint, it would be the loyalty of the athletes to the program, and the continued, consistent effort of the coaches from the grassroots up.”
David Fischer coaches the players at the junior level, while Séan Stokes preps the troops at the U-14 level. The juniors have won CISAA five years in a row, while the senior team has piled up seven in a row.
Sani has been playing since Grade 7, while Sorra joined the program in Grade 9.
In 2014, the team were disappointed by a 2–1 round robin result at Brampton-Caledon. The Strikers finished in a three-way tie but were mathematically eliminated from medal contention.
This year, the team was undefeated in the round robin, downing West Ferris, Waterdown and Forest Heights in straight sets before losing to Regiopolis-Notre Dame 2–1 (19–25, 25–23, 15–11).
From there, the Strikers downed Oakridge Secondary School in the quarterfinals and lost to Mississauga 3–2 (23–25, 19–25, 27–25, 25–23, 15–12) in the semi-finals.
St. Mike’s had the game point in the third set, but came up short.
“It was a combination of Mississauga playing well when it counted, and us doubting that we were going to win, or deserve to win,” Arseneau said. “No team really established a big lead.
“Kudos to Mississauga for playing well and their defence cranked it up when it really needed to.”
Even with the loss, St. Mike’s keeps their reputation of perennial competitors intact. Twelve out of 13 years they have won CISAA division 1, and three out five years they have medalled at OFSAA.
Still, five Grade 12 players will be leaving after this season, Sani included, and as always, Arseneau will look to the programs inbound youth to continue the tradition.
“It’s cyclical,” Arseneau said of the winning trend. “The last time we had this kind of a run, it was four years ago.”
There’s plenty of hope for 2016 as Sorra and company return to defend that CISAA title.
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