By:  April Luesby

Middle and right side Christian Delorme prepares to spike the ball against the Niagara College Knights. The Thunder lost the game after a nail-biting five sets.

The men’s Thunder volleyball team emerged in fifth place after the disappointingly close Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) provincial tournament hosted at Sheridan College in Oakville.

After winning 3-0 against La Cité on Feb. 13, the team earned a bye to the three-day tournament, held Feb. 21-23 as East Division Champions.

The team pulled out a win against Sheridan on the first day but lost their second and third matches against Mohawk and Niagara respectively.

The men started strong in the bronze-medal qualifying match against the Niagara Knights, but a lack of confidence held the Thunder back. The Knights won the first two sets 29-27 and 25-17, but the Thunder bounced back to win the next two sets. The close 25-21 and 25-22 wins forced the game to move on to a fifth set.

“The first two sets, there wasn’t consistent passing,” said middle and outside player Christian Delorme. “Everybody’s energy wasn’t there; focus wasn’t there, just mentally.”

The fifth set was a close match, each team advancing by only one or two points before their opponents caught up once more. Unfortunately, the Knights pulled ahead, winning the final set 15-11.

The Thunder held the advantage through the game with blocks 10-7 and tied the Knights with four aces each. Algonquin left side Philippe Yeldon led the way with 20 points, including 17 kills, one ace and two blocks. Algonquin left side Alex Oneid also contributed 17 kills and one ace.

“It was a struggle in the beginning,” said head coach Jay Mooney. “We made changes, and the guys that had to step up did well.”

Mooney particularly mentioned setter Mosafar Abdoli as one of the players who stepped up during the game. “He did a spectacular job,” he said.

Abdoli managed 10 digs during the game and made some fantastic serves.

“The bounces just didn’t go our way,” said Delorme. “I don’t think it was them so much as it was us beating ourselves up… the fifth set could’ve gone either way, they just got the lucky points.”

The tournament started off on the right foot with the team pulling out a win against the Sheridan Bruins on the first day by scores of 25-19, 25-11 and 15-6.

The Thunder started strong, but the Bruins came back to win two of the five sets due to passing and service errors. The team held a 52-50 advantage in kills, a 5-0 advantage in aces, and a 61-54 offensive margin.

During the second set, Yeldon went for the kill and hit the ball off an opposing player, causing it to bounce and hit the roof of the gym before smashing into the ground once more, giving the Thunder a point.

Three players posted double-digit point totals for the Thunder, including Yeldon, who posted a match-high 21 points with 20 kills and one block, as well as Oneid with 17 points and left side player Ian McAlpine with 13.

Having won the first, the Thunder were fired up for their next match against the Mohawk Mountaineers.

The game was a tightly-fought affair, as the team started out with confidence but received shots back at them they were unprepared for. The team’s confidence took a hit, and they were unable to win the match due to mental errors. The Mountaineers won in straight sets by scores of 25-20, 26-24, and 24-19.

The Thunder held a one-point edge in total offence 41-40, as well as an 8-4 advantage in blocks and a 5-2 aces advantage.

“The guys didn’t put forward what they’ve been working on. At some point in the match doubt crept in,” Said Mooney.

He thought the team’s best shot at the bronze-medal qualifying match against Niagara was to forget about their game against Mohawk.

Although the team lost their game against Niagara and did not qualify to play for bronze, they still walk away as the regular season East Division Champions.

The team can also boast the fact that Yeldon was chosen as OCAA player of the year, East Division scoring champion and one of the three OCAA All-Canadians. Yeldon also made the East Division First-Team All Stars while teammate Ian McAlpine was chosen for the East Division Second-Team All Stars.

“Going to provincials was definitely fun and eye-opening,” said Delorme. “Especially as a first year to be back next year.”

As for next season, Mooney seemed pretty clear as to his next course of action.

“We showed battle in the end but it wasn’t enough,” Mooney said. “So we’ll start rebuilding for next semester.”