With just two losses so far this season, the Elmira District Secondary School junior boys’ volleyball team is holding its own in what’s typically a competitive league.
Coach Sarah Gerth says there are five returning players and the rest are new to the team this year. Of them, five play competitive hockey. She said she usually doesn’t take hockey players because they’re not as fluid, but they’re eager to play.
“They’re dedicated, which you don’t see, especially with hockey because a lot of hockey players don’t consider volleyball a very manly sport,” Gerth said.
One of the players bought volleyball knee pads and shoes specifically to play, while another who’s injured still sits on the bench and comes to practice.
“Dedication is something I don’t usually see with people who are playing another high end sport like that. They’re a good group,” Gerth said.
The team has a 4-2 record and Gerth says the only reason they lost to Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School Sept. 29 is because she played everyone on the team.
“I didn’t lose on purpose to SJAM but I played everybody because I could hear them getting a little cocky, [saying] ‘we haven’t lost yet.’ You may want to have a taste of that so it doesn’t get hammered at you when you finally do lose, but it was good. It was a reality check,” Gerth said.
She says Preston High School will be a big challenge due to the size of their players. They play Preston on Oct. 25 at PHS.“You get the schools who have an entire team and they’re cutting club players. You can’t compete against that. Like I say to my guys, we’ve been playing together for months, they’ve been playing together for four or five years. But I say everyone’s beatable,” Gerth said.
She notes they’ve got strong players holding down the middle of the court for them.
“My big middle guy, Evan Rees, last year he was big but he didn’t have the confidence. So this year he’s got the confidence. He’s just huge. The other middle is a Grade 9 and he played for the [Kitchener Waterloo] Predators, so he’s got a lot of experience.”
She says aside from the one player who plays club volleyball outside of school, they’re still getting used to the system Gerth uses, which is different from what they played in public school where they’d just rotate positions. But she says they don’t give up.
“The chemistry’s good, it’s a good dynamic, a good group of guys. I mean they’re goofy, but it’s Grade 9 and 10s,” Gerth said.
And they want to win. The players on the bench don’t mope when they’re not playing. Instead, they’re cheering and they know everyone has a job to do whether you’re on the bench or on the court, she said.
“They are one of the best cohesive teams I’ve ever had. They’re very supportive of each other, they’re dedicated.”
While they’re not dominating any teams, they’re definitely surprising a few people this season.
Now they’re focusing on playing with the purpose of scoring rather than simply avoiding making a mistake.
“They need to play to score, so that’s what we’re working on. But when they get their brain into it and the confidence goes down, they forget how they’re supposed to approach and they react out of fear and panic instead of this is how you’re supposed to do it,” Gerth said.
They hosted Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute on Tuesday afternoon, losing 3-1.
“They’re excelling at each day aiming to be better than they were before they left practice. We’re getting better every day. That’s something that’s impressive and they’re consciously thinking about it.”
Their next home game is on Oct. 18 at 3:15 p.m. against Glenview Park Secondary School.