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Bigger dreams await as Ross Royals capture volleyball crown (9 photos)

Braeden Sears, who helped the Royals capture their fourth-consecutive District 10 title Friday, plans on playing for the Guelph Gryphons next year

When the Guelph Gryphons tangled with the Ryerson Rams in Ontario university men’s volleyball play Friday night in the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre, the Ross Royals and Bishop Macdonell Celtics were battling in the District 10 high school senior boys’ volleyball championship a couple of gyms over in the U of G’s West Gym.

Ross co-captain Braeden Sears, who helped Ross to its fourth consecutive D10 senior boys’ title, hopes to be playing in the GGAC next year should the same scheduling happen.

“I just committed to the U of G so I’m going there,” Sears said as his team celebrated its championship victory. If the celebration ended soon enough, he was going to pop over to the main gym.

“If they’re still playing, I’ll probably watch a little bit,” he said.

Sears and the Royals extracted a little revenge on the Celtics Friday night as Bishop Macdonell was the lone team to beat Ross in D10 league play this season – and they did it twice. The Royals had finished atop the five-team league’s standings with a 10-2 record while the Celtics were second at 8-4 and they met three times during the regular season.

“We didn’t want to lose to them again. We didn’t want to have a 1-3 record with them, we wanted to tie it up before the end of the season,” Sears said. “I think we were just more focused. Usually we lose focus around the third set and then we lose it, but we kept focus this time and finished it off.”

The Royals took the final in three sets, winning 25-14, 25-19, 25-15, which was a surprise.

“It usually doesn’t in senior volleyball, but I also knew that we had the ability to focus through and win so three straight,” Ross coach Travis Oke said. “I’m happy with that.”

“We usually go five with them, they’re a really good team,” Sears said. “I’m glad we got it done in three.”

And Sears, hitting on the left side, proved to be almost unstoppable.

“It’s a final so I wanted to play well and I wanted to finish it off,” he said. “Obviously it’s the final so I was excited for it.”

“They were just on. You’ve got to give credit to Ross. They played well,” Bishop Macdonell coach Brian Burns said. “We couldn’t solve their left-side hitter, No. 7, Braeden. He was hitting over. We’d move the block inside and he’d go line. We moved it outside and he’d go (inside). So it’s something for us to key on and learn from. They went to left side a lot and we didn’t figure out a way to shut them down.”

For Oke this D10 title, his seventh, will be his final one as he’s retiring from teaching at the end of the school year and that will bring his coaching the Royals to an end.

“For me, teaching and coaching are intertwined,” he said. “They’re both an integral part of my job and I had more fun with this team than any other team I’ve had and you probably saw that on the court. These guys love each other and they have so much fun together.”

Oke had three D10 championship wins with the Centennial Spartans before transferring to Ross. Friday’s title win was his fourth with Ross.

Both the Royals and the Celtics advance to CWOSSA regional championship tournaments next week. Ross is to compete in the CWOSSA AAA tournament at the University of Waterloo’s Columbia Ice Fields gym Thursday while Bishop Macdonell will be in the CWOSSA AA tournament at Walkerton. It features pool play Wednesday and the semifinals and final Friday.

The D10 senior win by the Royals also gave Ross the complete bragging rights in boys’ volleyball this year as the Royals also swept Bishop Macdonell in the junior final that started the championship doubleheader.

The Royals won the junior final 25-21, 25-6, 25-16 for their first D10 junior title win since 2014. Bishop Mac had entered the final as the two-time defending champions.

“We’ve been peaking at the right time,” said Ross junior coach Josh Ogden. “We’ve been adding little things along the way and we just hit our stride at the right time.”

Ross had finished the eight-team junior league’s regular season in first place at 13-1 while Bishop Macdonell was second at 12-2.

Both the Royals and Celtics advance to their respective CWOSSA tournaments next week.

It’s the first time one school has posted the double D10 championship win since the Centennial Spartans did it in 2011.