The second half of the post-secondary varsity schedules have either just started, or are about to start, for all winter sports. For coach Tom Sutton and the Cambrian Golden Shield men’s volleyball team, this means taking their crew on the road, preparing for a single out of town contest with the Redeemer Royals in Hamilton this coming Saturday.
With a record of 1-9, the Shield remain a long-shot to leap past both the Mohawk Mountaineers(3-6) and Conestoga Condors (4-6) to secure the 7th and final playoff spot in the West Division of the OCAA. With that in mind, this seemed like a timely opportunity to take a glance back, reviewing some of the Cambrian squads, in years gone by, that have enjoyed the adrenaline rush of post-season play.
There was a definite buzz in the air, locally, during the 2010-2011 season, a campaign in which both the Cambrian Golden Shield, as well as the Boréal Vipères would crack the OCAA East top six. Even more encouraging was the fact that both squads enjoyed no lack of local talent, young men fully capable of remaining more than competitive with some of the very best hitters, defenders and setters in Ontario.
The Shield had welcomed Lockerby Composite multi-sport star Bryan Davidson to the fold, following his brief stint with the Laurentian Voyageurs men’s basketball team. He would join a group that was anchored by Ben Cambridge, forming a top trio of attackers that also includedChris Irving.
Current OHL official Kevin Keyes had stepped in to help out at middle, with Lively Hawks’Mitchell Nyssen and Chris Holden (Lockerby) also garnering plenty of playing time. The November match-up with the Vipères, an imposing side that boasted the presence of all-stars Alex Piquette, Eric Robert and Robert Gignac, not to mention locals Joshua Deppisch and Joseph Benoit, made for an intensely exciting all-Sudbury affair.
Boréal rebounded from an opening set loss, taking the rivalry game in four sets, though both teams would fall in the OCAA playoff cross-over encounters. With a final record of 10-8, the Vipères lost a five set heartbreaker to Mohawk (25-23, 27-25, 19-25, 14-25, 9-15), while Cambrian was eliminated by the Fanshawe Falcons in four sets (17-25, 25-21, 15-25, 18-25).
Though finding archived information that offers simplistic clarity is no easy feat when it comes to the world of OCAA athletics, it does appear as though the 2007-2008 season might offer the last time a Cambrian men’s volleyball representative cracked the 1st all-star team.
Local product James Castonguay was honoured in that capacity, with both Ben Cambridge and Christian Copp on the second team as the Shield posted a regular season record of 8-5, good enough to earn a first place tie in the Central East with both the Seneca Sting and Georgian Grizzlies.
Long-time Lockerby coaching mainstay Stephen Beausoleil was at the helm, giving way a year later to Richard Faucher (2009-2010), then Shane St Louis (2010-2013) and eventually Tom Sutton (2013-current).
In complete fairness to these fine gentlemen, it’s difficult to compare the landscape in which the 2017-2018 edition of the team competes to the one which produced a number of top end Division II men’s volleyball titles for Cambrian teams of days gone by.
Still, it’s a lot of fun to look back.
With a regular season record of 19-1, the 1990-1991 version of the Shield team topped the Division II standings. With league MVP Brad Boudreau showing the way, the roster also provided Coach of the Year Pat Kerton with all-star options in the form of both Roger Chouinardand Chris Brownlee.
The locals swept past Fanshawe in straight sets (16-14, 15-5, 15-11) in their challenge match with the sixth place team in Division I, earning a berth at the provincial playdowns. It didn’t take long for the competitiveness of the Golden Shield to shine through, as the team bounced both the Loyalist Lancers (15-11, 6-15, 15-4, 15-11) and Durham Lords (16-14, 15-11, 10-15, 11-15, 17-16), earning a shot in the gold medal game with the Sheridan Bruins.
The top ranked team in Division I standings with a record of 11-1, the Bruins survived by the skin of their teeth, downing Cambrian 14-16, 15-9, 15-5, 11-15, 16-14, with Boudreau recognized as the OCAA championship tournament MVP.
By the late 1990’s, the OCAA had divided into the East and West segments, though teams were split differently than today, with the Royal Military College and Nipissing University still in the mix. Over at the New Sudbury campus, names such as Chris Duguay, Richard Koops, Dominic Bergeron, Curtis Loiselle, Richard Faucher, Kyle Kivilahti and countless others were stepping into the spotlight.
Even as I began my journey in terms of local sports coverage in late 2003, the Cambrian lads remained quite competitive, posting a record of 6-6 in the 2002-2003 on a team that was led by Terry Labelle, Tyler Lagace and Trevor Sasseville. That collection of talent bested RMC in a five set cross-over classic, 27-29, 25-19, 25-19, 21-25, 17-15, finding their way to the final eight.
And though they went winless at the OCAA tournament in Belleville, the goal to ascend to provincial playdowns remains the target that Sutton and company chase to this day. Yes, the current team roster does not provide nearly enough offensive support to force opponents to stop focusing on Cambrian veteran Lucas Claveau.
With 85 kills to date, the Hornepayne native has accounted for more than 50% of the team total through their first ten matches. The fact is that it will take some time for the likes of Scott Williams (16 kills), Mitchell Reid (12), Taylor Caffley (11) and remaining relative newcomers to close the gap.
In the meantime, a walk down memory lane will have to do.