Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Middle hitter 'back' with vengeance

MBCI star leads squad to final a year after injury scare

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It can be a scary deal, being a high-school athlete and already having your whole career flash in front of your eyes.

Maybe that, more than anything, explained why Josh Goosen couldn't seem to wipe the size-large grin off his face Thursday night, not long after helping lead his top-ranked Mennonite Brethren Hawks to a 3-1 (24-26, 25-21, 25-23, 25-18) victory over the fourth-seeded St. Paul's Crusaders in semifinal action at the Boston Pizza AAAA High School Volleyball Championship.

The Hawks will meet the second-ranked Lord Selkirk Royals in Monday's final (8 p.m., Shaw) at the University of Winnipeg's Duckworth Centre after they knocked off the defending champion Miles Macdonell Buckeyes 3-2 (25-21, 21-25, 25-20, 20-25, 15-12).

"That felt really good," began Goosen. "I was out last year. I couldn't play because I was injured and I missed this game when we played this team (Mennonite Brethren was knocked off by the Crusaders in the semis last year). So, coming in here is awesome.

"I've dreamed about this my whole life. And now that we're here it's unbelievable. This is really awesome. One more to go."

But Goosen's injury was more than just a twisted knee or a busted limb. As Hawks' head coach Brian Plett said afterward the injury "threatened to put his whole career in jeopardy."

Goosen, a 6-3 Grade 12 middle hitter, suffered two fractured vertebrae in his lower back -- primarily because of over-use, he explained -- and missed six months while he recuperated.

What's the old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder?

"It just gave out on me in a tournament last year," Goosen explained. "We were scared about how long I was going to be out but luckily I came back midway through club (season) last year. I wanted to come back earlier and play for Team Manitoba, but I just said I needed to take a break because my back was still kinda shaky.

"But it all worked out."

Yeah, you could say that. Goosen, named the Hawks' player of the game, led all players with 24 kills and was quick to single out the work of his setter, Adam Schreimer, who was outstanding. Interestingly, after dropping the first game, Plett leaned heavily on his two Grade 12 stars to help get the Hawks flying straight again.

"You have to have some leaders on the floor and the guys I was expecting to lead, stepped up and led," Plett said. "We have some guys who have been in some really tough competitions with provincial team, with championship matches before and I called on them to provide leadership and they stepped up... guys like Josh and Adam, they knew they had to step up and take control of things. I told Adam, 'You know what, Josh has got to get the ball a bit more.' Some other guys weren't being quite as effective and Josh is a tremendous leaper. He gets up there and is sort of a bit unconscious up there just swinging away. And yet he can see the floor so well. The leadership of some of our guys was really important."

In the second semifinal Thursday, the Royals edged the Buckeyes with a rally in the fifth game, trailing 11-6 before winning 15-12.

"We felt alive and we knew we had to do something special," said left-side hitter Brandon Sutherland. "Do the ordinary things extraordinarily well, eh? It was great.

"We've got 12 great players on our team and when a group of eight Grade 12s and four Grade 11s come through like that, it's going to be a great scene ahead of us. We've got one game left."

The Royals avenged a loss to the Buckeyes in last year's semifinal, falling to a squad that went 62-0 en route to the title.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

CHAMPIONSHIP MONDAY

At the University of Winnipeg's Duckworth Centre

Girls' final

No. 1 MBCI Hawks vs. No. 2 Neelin Spartans, 6 p.m.

Boys' final

No. 1 MBCI Hawks vs. No. 2 Lord Selkirk Royals, 8 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2012 C8

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