SSES dethrones defending champion St. Mike's to win Huron-Perth senior boys' volleyball title

Stratford Elementary and Secondary Schools’ Gabe Plain blocks St. Mike’s Kaden Eybergen during the Huron-Perth senior boys’ volleyball final Thursday at Northwestern. SSES won in three sets. Cory Smith/The Beacon Herald

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It didn’t matter that both teams had already qualified for their respective WOSSAA championships.

The Huron-Perth senior boys’ volleyball final was a match both St. Mike’s and Stratford Secondary and Elementary Schools (SSES) wanted to win.

“I think going to WOSSAA winning every game in the league is some good confidence, especially with the teams we’ll be playing at WOSSAA,” SSES left-side Luke Hyde said after a 25-19, 25-16, 25-20 win over the Warriors Thursday afternoon. “They’re going to be really good as well, so to beat all the teams we played in our league is a good boost.”

Stratford Secondary and Elementary Schools’ Brendan Moorehead gets up for a hit with St. Mike’s blockers Ronan McCarroll (1) and Connor Hill (10) in his way during the Huron-Perth senior boys’ volleyball final Thursday at Northwestern. Cory Smith/The Beacon Herald

SSES – an all-star amalgamation of Stratford Central and Northwestern now classified as triple-A – went 8-0 in the regular season and lost only one set, which was against St. Mike’s.

“They were by far the toughest competition all year,” Hyde said, “and we knew that to beat them (in the final) we’d have to go out and play hard all of us, and we did.”

SSES was the more cohesive group Thursday, especially when it came to passing and hitting.

“We had some really good sets from Carter (Stock), and our defence was good,” Hyde said. “We covered well, and that was key against these guys because they’ve got some big players.”

Hyde said his team will have eyes on Oakridge at the Western Ontario tournament next Wednesday in London.

“They’ll be the team to beat for sure,” he said. “Their whole team is club players. That’ll be the goal, to beat them.

“If we all play our hardest and all connect well, I think we’ll have a good chance.”

St. Mike’s was second during the season with a 7-1 record. The Warriors once again dealt with lulls throughout the match, especially against SSES’s big hitters.

“They did a really nice job, particularly Luke Hyde, and a couple of those in a row makes a difference,” St. Mike’s coach Carolyn Bell said. “We were up for the challenge today. They’re a very good team, and playing them is going to make us better as we continue to go.”

Bell is confident about the Warriors’ chances at the WOSSAA double-A tournament, especially with Luke Gaylor back in the lineup. Gaylor’s absence affected the Warriors’ passes and left the offence struggling to sustain pressure.

It was good news for the newly-combined Stratford school, which came together to dethrone the defending champs.

“We all know each other relatively well anyway,” Hyde said. “It was moreso just fun to have them come here and battle it out with us.”