By: Kajan Thiruthanikasalam and Teru Ikeda
SCARBOROUGH, ONT.- Like the women, the men had a relatively different roster heading into this season than they had last season and also with a new coaching staff.
And during various instances of their home opener against the Durham Lords, the Centennial Colts' youth and inexperience showed in their inability to close out sets.
"It was more of explaining to them that this is all about a team," David Ta, Colts Head Coach said, about fighting through the growing pains.
But behind a never-say-die attitude, Centennial grew up quickly and pulled out a gritty five-set thriller (21-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-18, 16-14) over Durham at the Athletic and Wellness Centre.
Despite committing nine more errors on the attack and six more on the serve than Durham, Centennial outpaced the Lords in kills (46-36), assists (33-21), aces (7-5) and digs (40-39). The Colts' defensive play at the net led to 13 blocks.
"It builds a positive team camaraderie and it helps with the fact that we basically have a team full of rookies and that the rookies assisted with the win," Ta said.
"Bryan's got a lot of learning to do but as you can see, he's a dynamic force on the court," Ta said.
Javed Baksh and Fillion each had 13 with nine kills in the win. Baksh, in particular, had almost everyone leave the stands with a crushing kill in the second set that hit Durham's Lucas Pichl square in the face.
"Javed's very experienced and has played at the highest level," Ta said. "That play may have turned the tables from losing that first set. It lifted us up when he packed that guy in the face."
Baksh and Jaydeep Patel were tied with the team lead in digs with nine.
"Jaydeep is playing like, in my opinion, the best libero in the (OCAA) East right now," Ta said.
The veteran Fillion finished with a team high three aces, the last one going down the line to close out a back-and-forth match, to the delight of the home crowd.
"That was huge; Jason's one of our go-to guys," Ta said. "I'm looking to him to mentor our rookies and he's a huge part to this men's volleyball program."
Wallace's veteran presence proved to be massive as he led all players with 30 assists and his service game was a steadying presence at crucial times.
"Matt's a very consistent server," Ta said. "We give him a position where to hit it on the court (and) it goes to that position. Him and Jason are basically the glue to this team."
Tyler Krabi led Durham with 16 kills and five aces for a total of 21 points; he also led the Lords with 10 digs.
The first set featured many twists and turns as Durham held a five point lead while Centennial were up four at one point. But with the score tied at 20, a net error from Edvaldo Hire sparked the Lords to score five of the last six points to take the first set.
In the second set, the Colts cleaned up their passing game and it led to a spread-out attack. Combine that with the errors on the attack and serve that Durham piled up and that led to a strong second set in which the home side took, 25-17.
The third set had Centennial in control for much of that set, only for Durham to come roaring back to take the lead. It was tied at 21 when the Lords closed out the third set with four straight points, capped off by a kill from Krabi.
Brown had six points in the fourth set and Baksh had four kills while Timothy Ho had three kills in that set alone as the Colts dominated to force a fifth and deciding set.
The fifth set signalled how tight this game was as both teams were determined not to lose. Durham led by as many as three points but Centennial responded to tie the set at 13. An attack error from Baksh gave the Lords match point but a block from Ho and a Colts block gave the home team match point.
Fillion did not make any mistake finishing it off as his serve was too much to handle for Krabi as the veteran Colt's teammates mobbed him in jubilation, celebrating what was truly a team win.
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The Colts look to continue their winning ways on Tuesday Oct. 23 at 6:00pm but will be in tough as they face off against the Georgian Grizzlies at the Athletic and Wellness Centre.
"They've lost more than a couple of seniors but Georgian is still a high performance team," Ta said. "We'll have to get a little bit of Xs and Os worked out heading into that game."