There may not be a ton of varsity teams that don the Cambrian Golden Shield colours these days, but for those that do, there is plenty to keep them busy. Whether right in the midst of a current playoff run, or setting the framework for a memorable season eight to nine months away, the state of their respective programs seldom strays too far away from the minds of those individuals tasked with putting the product on the field.
For cross-country coach Eric Leishman, the recent success of both Emily Marcolini and Mary Strain, and to a lesser extent, even the likes of local product Shawn Belanger, who qualified for nationals in his freshman season of OCAA competition, has helped shine a little more spotlight on a group that has not been able to consistently field a complete “team entry”, be it male or female, in the past few years.
Increasing that profile via some sort of participation in an indoor track circuit is just one of the goals that Leishman pursues these days, though circumstances have backed up this achievement for at least one more calendar year. “This year was a little different with the strike and everything,” said the coach, who is also establishing himself as a premier marathoner on a national scale.
“I touched base with a few of the runners who may have been interested, but they are obviously school first. That, and a couple of them being beaten up a little bit. It’s tough, because our cross-country season, at the college level, is the one that really counts, so you put everything into it and then try and recover for a couple of months after that.”
And while there is clearly a level of year-round training if one is pursuing distance running excellence as a member of the Golden Shield, the former Cambrian Male Athlete of the Year has amended his expectations, over time. “I feel as I have matured, I have realized that it’s not necessarily beneficial for the body or the mind to push through even little nicks, unless it’s completely necessary,” said Leishman.
“Over the years, I’ve gotten smarter in terms of being willing to take a little time off and probably come back stronger for it.” The reality for Cambrian soccer master coach Giuseppe Politi and his staff is that barring the construction of a proper indoor complex in Sudbury, off-season training in their part of the world is something of a hodge-podge until the outdoor fields open up.
In the meantime, it’s all about starting to make sure that the pieces can be put together with ease, come late summer and the fall. “We are in the thick of recruiting season, working with student-athletes and their families to schedule visits, making scholarship offers, as well ensuring applications are complete and on time,” stressed Politi.
Always quite candid in assessing his teams, the former Laurentian University striker has mixed feelings heading into the 2018 campaign. “As I mentioned in the fall, the women’s team will experience the most change,” he said. “2017 was the end of a solid four to five year cycle for the women’s program, and it will now be a time of rebuilding. Our goal at this point is to field a team that is competitive and playoff bound.”
“In terms of the men’s side, we are expecting a good returning core, but still looking to make a few additions to compete in a very tough central division,” Politi added. “Our goal for 2018 is to make a return to the playoffs, after narrowly missing out on it on the last match day of the season because of a divisional upset.”
As for the squads in mid-season form, the Cambrian women’s volleyball team earned a split, doing the expected in sweeping the Collège Boréal Vipères 25-15, 25-18, 25-11, before falling to the Mohawk Mountaineers in four sets on the weekend (19-25, 15-25, 27-25, 14-25). The crosstown rivalry with Boréal did provide the Golden Shield with a chance to work on a few things in anticipation of the playoffs, next month.
“We try and run more combos, have the middle run a “D” and have the power come in for the middle,” noted libero Kayla Wandziak, enjoying a very solid performance in the eyes of head coach Dale Beausoleil. “We try and do those on the free ball. We try and take the free ball off our hands, so that there’s a faster pace.”
On a personal level, the graduate of Marymount Academy was thankful for the chance to simply garner a better level of comfort on the court. “At first, I was struggling, I was scared going on to the court, to be quite honest,” acknowledged Wandziak. “Once I got the willies out, I was much better.”
And as much as Beausoleil conceded that Mohawk was simply the better team, come Saturday in Hamilton, it wasn’t as though the Mountaineers were taking anything for granted. “As much as they have five wins, they also have one of the best coaches in the league, and he always has them prepared and they seem to get better in the second half,” noted Mohawk head coach Matthew Schnarr.
Coach Tom Sutton and the Cambrian Golden Shield men’s volleyball team mirrored, to a degree, the women’s week, also earning a split. They survived a mid-week scare by the narrowest of margins, slipping past Boréal in five hard fought sets (23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 20-25, 15-13), but could not steal a set from the Mountaineers, upended 16-25, 23-25, 14-25.
Lucas Claveau continued to show the way offensively, recording nine kills, with Scott Williams(4), Taylor Cafley (3) and Mitchell Reid (3) also chipping in from time to time.