By Kevin Miller
Herbert Thompson reached down to bump the volleyball but it took off on him, careened into the rafters and out of play.
The 17-year-old player for the Lisgar Collegiate Institute Lords pounded the floor with his hand out of frustration.
This final point provided the Hillcrest High School Hawks with a 3-1 victory in the finals of the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association senior boys’ volleyball season.
The loss marked the culmination of four years of work by a Lisgar Lords team that will see the majority of its players graduate this year.
With next year’s abolishment of OACs in Ontario high schools, seven Grade 12 and OAC students on the team will graduate in June, leaving a much different looking team for next year.
The core Lords players have been together for at least three years, most for four.
When asked how the team made it so far this year, Thompson simply made a heart over his chest with his hands and said, “A lot of this.”
Stephanie Morrison, head coach of the Lords, says the skewed playoff structure is the reason it took the Lords so long to get to the city final.
In the past, both NCSSAA divisions had representatives in the final. Morrison says since the Eastern division, which Lisgar and Hillcrest are in, is usually stronger, an Eastern team might be eliminated while a weaker Western team could advance.
But this year was different. A new playoff structure allowed the final to take place between Eastern division rivals Hillcrest and Lisgar at Sir Wilfrid Laurier High School.
Lisgar defeated Earl Of March Secondary School in the first round of the playoffs, then beat Brookfield High School, the regular season Western champions, 3-1.
A Lisgar player said, Brookfield’s record is deceptive.
“We can beat Brookfield, we’ve already beaten them in tournaments this year,” said Nick McNaught, a graduating Lisgar player.
This win set up the final game versus Hillcrest.
Almost 100 fans filed into the gym to cheer their team on in the championship, at times cheering so loudly the stands shook from their enthusiasm.
Anne Eyler, a Lisgar fan, made the trip to the final and said anyone who followed the team knew it was a big game.
McNaught’s sister Carolinesaid this game was important to him since “five of the starting lineup are graduating, so this is their last year and they want to win.”
The Hawks took the first two games 25-17 and 25-19.
The score fluctuated back and forth in the third game before Lisgar’s Ed Keeble served to finish a 25-24 victory.
Hillcrest dominated the majority of the fourth game, opening with a 21-12 lead.
The Lords played emotionally — screaming and hugging followed every point they scored. But the game ended with the ball hitting the roof and Thompson pounding the floor.
The shocked team lined up after the loss to accept their silver medals and a hug each from Morrison, who said she was “very proud of them.”
Next year, Morrison hopes to continue improving the team, and says several promising junior players will move up to take the vacated spots.
Morrison says Stuart Hamilton in particular, the team’s only returning starter, will be a “strong leader” for the club.