Alumni volleyball game sees vets take it

From left to right is Joanna Rosenbaum, alumni Andrew Argal, Joey Toner, Harrison Noble, Carter Dunlop, Daniel Flanagan,  Coach Peter Kategiannis, MSS players Parker Dickinson, Mathew Redmond, Tait Wallace, Alex Martin , Bryce Draper, Chris Haner Greg McGauley and front row Greg Doane, Zack Kategiannis and Liam Flaherty. Missing from photo is Brandon Boyle and James Scott.

Peter Kategiannis set to retire as coach

M’CHIGEENG—While many look forward to the gathering of family, roast turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving weekend, there are a few former Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) students that mark this weekend on their calendar as an opportunity to dust off the court shoes, scrape off the rust and play the current crop of MSS students in a best-of-seven grudge match. 

“I look forward to this all year,” echoed all the alumni players. “Many of us simply don’t play this game anymore as we have moved on with our daily lives.” 

The overwhelming sentiment from the alumni was to “embrace competitive sports and not take it for granted.” The former MSS students had an aura of nostalgia about them as they conveyed this information to the young upstarts that have picked up the volleyball torch at MSS.

Coach Peter Kategiannis also looks forward to this date as it provides an excellent opportunity for the Senior Boys to play up tempo, high caliber volleyball against some formidable players. 

“We are trying to build off an outstanding year last year where we qualified for the OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) championships,” he said. “Although we had a very good season, the team did not perform to their full potential while at OFSAA last year. Many of the players seemed nervous playing on such a big stage. If we manage to get there this year, we are definitely aiming to improve on our results at the provincial championships.”

The current Mustangs are eager to play the alumni for several reasons.

Captain Greg Doane was easily more comfortable in this setting and was confident that not only could the 2017 Mustangs play with the alumni this year, they were hoping to beat them. “Last year I was a little taken aback by the older players. Quite a few of them played post-secondary volleyball and it was a little intimidating.”

“This year, however, we have improved as a team and are just a little more seasoned; we came into this game thinking we could not only improve our skills but we also believed we could come out on top,” Greg added.

As the alumni warmed up and the Mustangs watched, it was evident that once again they were intimidated by some thunderous hits and pin point setting from Daniel Flanagan. However, it was the MSS team that jumped to an early lead and maintained it for most of the set. Towards the end of the set, the older ‘Stangs were able to come back and win the first set. The two teams were evenly matched as was evidenced by the back and forth play. The 30 fans that showed up were treated to some outstanding volleyball highlighted by some big hits and some nice digs by both teams. The Jr. Mustangs were leading two sets to one at one point of the match. There was some good natured “chirping” going on between the teams.

The senior players started to impose their will on the younger players mid-way through the match and it looked like the Mustangs were all but finished. However, they mounted a comeback and won an exciting sixth set by a score of 31-29.

The match was evened up much to the elation of the Mustangs and the reminder that the alumni hadn’t touched a volleyball for some time. The final set to 15 points proved that experience usually wins over youthful exuberance as the alumni finished the match strong with a 15-7. The Mustangs lost 4-3 in sets.

“This was awesome,” exclaimed alum Carter Dunlop. “Can’t wait to play again next year.”

On a sombre note, this may be the last alumni match unless somebody else organizes the event. Coach Kategiannis has stated that this will be his last year coaching. “I have loved coaching the youth of Manitoulin for 27 years,” he said.

“Sports is the highlight of many students and I have been fortunate to play a part in so many students’ development in my time here,” the coach continued. “This year’s team has such a good chance to compete and possibly achieve success at the provincial level. With my son on the team, it would be a great way to end my tenure as head coach of the senior boys. I have made so many fond memories here.”

The Mustangs have a chance to host the North Shore championships at the high school in November. 

“It would be great to have the support of the community as they continue their goal,” Coach Kategiannis urged.