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Lancers face Hawks in AAAA final

Dakota downs John Taylor, MBCI slays Lord Selkirk

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If it's third time lucky, then the Dakota Lancers boys volleyball team will sign up right now.

The Lancers are headed to their third straight championship match after defeating the John Taylor Pipers 25-19, 25-19, 19-25, 25-16 Thursday in the provincial Final Four at the University of Manitoba Investors Group Athletic Centre.

Dakota, which has lost its last two high school title bids, will play in the final of the 2010 Boston Pizza AAAA Provincial Volleyball Championship on Monday at 8 p.m. at IGAC.

The top-seeded Lancers will meet the second seed and defending champion Mennonite Brethren Hawks, who needed five sets to get past the Lord Selkirk Royals 25-23, 19-25, 20-25, 25-23, 15-13 in the other semifinal.

The girls' final will also be played Monday at IGAC as the River East Kodiaks and Lord Selkirk Royals will start things off at 6 p.m.

"Your goal all season-long is to get a chance to play the last game of the season. We did that the last couple of years too, we did it again this year, so we're going to prepare our best and see what happens," said Dakota head coach Phil Hudson, in his 30th year of coaching. "Last year is out of our minds and now we're preparing for this team here."

MBCI was in trouble in the fourth set, down 2-1 in sets and trailing by six points midway through the fourth set. But a pair of thundering kills by Noah Derksen along with a pair of timely tips by Derksen and Mike Sukkua settled the see-saw battle in the fourth set.

"Even though we're defending the title, it feels like a brand new team here because Noah (Derksen) is the only starter from last year. But I think I lost a year off my life in that one!" said Hawks middle James Froese, a Grade 12 player.

"We were in some trouble there, that's for sure. But I think we got some passion there, we were very scared of losing, our setter (Dave Stasica) got some fear in his eyes and we pulled it together. I am very excited for Monday."

In the Dakota-John Taylor match, Dakota used a balanced attack from the outside and middle and cashed in with some deceptive tips. In the end, Dakota's Brad Angus and Tanner McFeetors hit some heavy balls that could not be handled by John Taylor's defence.

"Having that (balanced attack) has been one of our big keys and we can rely on a big finish from the outside," said Angus, named Dakota's player of the game.

The player of the game for John Taylor was Garrett Armstrong.

"We battled hard. We lost the third set but we came back in the fourth set and we just took it to them. Going to the final, that's just the greatest feeling ever."

With four players who could execute the spin serve, John Taylor used that advantage to put pressure on Dakota in the second and third sets, but the Lancers tightened up in the fourth.

"John Taylor battled us well, they sided out from right side tremendously and they passed the ball really well. It put pressure on our left-side attackers and against their big right-side blocker (Garrett Armstrong), it's very difficult to hit the ball when they know it's going there."

John Taylor head coach Ryan Vermette said his team's youth showed in the pressure situations but they grew as group from the experience.

"We made some costly errors at the wrong times. With four guys in Grade 11, those things are going to happen on the court, but our two Grade 12s were the best players in the match," Vermette said, referring to Jordan Fyvie and Armstrong.

"With a young group, we'll keep them together and it looks good for next year."

MBCI coach Brian Plett had said coming in that Selkirk was physically the most dominant team in the province and the Royals showed that on the court as Thursday's match wore on. But the clutch play belonged to MBCI down the stretch.

Selkirk surged back into the match midway through the second set led by 6-foot-7 Josh Crellin's towering attack from the right and the powerful serve of Shane deRooy and his big swing from the left.

Most of the fourth set was dominated by Selkirk's deRooy, who had four service aces in the match, and Alex Wilkie on the left-side. But the Hawks stormed back late in the set powered by blocking and kills by middle James Froese.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2010 C3

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