Raiders party like its 1991
The Delhi Raiders senior boys volleyball team hoist up their newly won NSSAA championship trophy after defeating the Simcoe Sabres 3-1 to claim the crown Wednesday night at Simcoe Composite School. (JACOB ROBINSON Simcoe Reformer)
The current Delhi Raiders weren't close to being born the last time their school won a NSSAA senior boys volleyball championship.
Even their coach Ryan Gaertner wasn't eligible to compete for the trophy back in 1991 when the blue and gold reigned supreme.
That all changed Wednesday as the present-day edition of the squad knocked off the heavy favourites from Simcoe 3-1 (25-20, 25-15, 22-25, 25-20) at the Sabredome.
“It's a great feeling,” said Raiders captain Braeden Palinko.
“We came in here and were trying to do the best we could and it looks like coach (Gaertner) wanted it more than we did and we tried to get it for him.”
Delhi's victory snapped the team's three game losing streak, and ended a bizarre week of Norfolk playoffs. The Raiders – third place with a mark of 2-3 – were set to square off with Valley Heights (2) in the league semis on Monday night, but the Bears were forced to pull out at the last minute due to a lack of players. That gave DDSS a bye to the final, but many outside Tobacco Town felt a Simcoe victory was all but certain.
“No one else knew we had this in us. We knew,” Palinko explained. “We played a couple out-of-league games in tournaments and stuff like that. We played harder teams and did well against them, so we knew we had it in us and we just did what we could.”
The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Sabres, who were the class of the loop all season. Simcoe came into the night with just a single blemish on their record, but left broken-hearted.
“Volleyball is about momentum,” explained Sabres coach Joanne Defreyne. “Delhi came to play tonight and we didn't.”
After getting down in the first two sets, the Sabres showed signs of life in the third, but the deficit was just too much to overcome. Making matters worse, Simcoe was without the services of spark plug Jake Luke, Carter May and Haiden Coates for various reasons.
“It's like we were behind the eight ball before we even started,” said Defreyne, whose team will move on to the double-A CWOSSA tournament in Walkerton next week.
“Hopefully it's a learning experience for them and they realize you can't let outside things like that affect your game.”
The good news for Simcoe is every player is able to return to the team next season.
When it comes to Delhi, they were busy basking in the glow of making school history. The group even took time from their celebration to take a selfie with principal Lynn Abbey.
“It's really nice,” Palinko said of bringing a league banner to DDSS for the first time in over two decades. “It's one thing to hear it and it's another thing to actually be a part of school history.”
The Raiders will take part in single-A CWOSSA in Waterford Nov. 19.
“We're just focused on playing off this victory, having our heads high,” Palinko noted.
“We're going to keep doing what we're doing, keep our mentality straight and go from there.”
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