Sports

Georgian Grizzlies win 10th straight at athletic centre in Barrie

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

The Georgian Grizzlies men's volleyball team extended its winning streak to 10 with a victory over the Canadore Panthers on Wednesday night in Barrie. MAEK WANZEL/PHOTO

The Georgian Grizzlies men's volleyball team extended its winning streak to 10 with a victory over the Canadore Panthers on Wednesday night in Barrie. MAEK WANZEL/PHOTO

Reid Saxby knew his Georgian Grizzlies would be good this year.

But 10-0?

Even the men’s volleyball coach didn’t see that one coming.

“I don’t know if anyone expects to be undefeated,” Saxby said. “Every team has a bad day.

“I expected us to be one of the top two teams, but being undefeated is a bonus.”

After a perfect first half of the season, where Georgian beat every team in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association’s East Division once, the Grizzlies picked up where they’d left off after the break, sweeping the Canadore Panthers in three straight sets on Wednesday night.

Last year’s squad went 14-6 and showed some real signs of breaking out, despite being in a top-heavy conference.

This season, they’ve done just that, with only one-loss Durham in striking distance.

“Last year was my first year with the team and we sort of went back to the (beginning) with developing the team,” Saxby said. “Fortunately, a lot of players returned this year as veteran players, so I got most of my guys back, and we got two guys who came back to Georgian that had been here previously in Adam Bielby and Justin Burke.”

Both Bielby, a former standout for the Bear Creek Kodiaks, and Burke were part of the 2013 Nipissing squad that won the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship, as well as being members of the 2014 Grizzlies team that hosted the OCAAs.

That kind of veteran leadership has been just what Saxby was looking for in his group.

“I have some senior guys on the team who are very experienced and know what they’re doing, and they can be mentors for the young guys,” Saxby said. “The guys are a lot of fun and as always, winning’s a lot of fun.”

Bielby is one of four players from Barrie that regularly sees action in the starting lineup, which includes Jake Edwards, Liam Gray, and Darien Haynes, who has established himself as one of the best middles in the country.

“At the college or university level, the middle block is the first level of defence for your team,” Saxby said. “So having a large, high-jumping middle blocker (like Darien) is always an advantage.

“I think, pound for pound, we have the best middles in the East, and that’s a big cornerstone for our team.”

As much as the Grizzlies are a force to be reckoned with at the net, they’ve undertaken a few different aspects of the game as their top goals for improvement this season.

“Our serve and pass game was the No. 1 thing we decided to focus on,” Saxby said. “We have a very offensive team.

“If you look at the statistics, you won’t see any one of my hitters in the top five or 10, but there will be four in the top 50,” Saxby added. “So we have a diverse attack, and when we pass well, that opens up a lot of opportunities for us to be very offensive.”

Georgian’s multi-faceted attack has made it extremely tough to defend.

“It makes it a lot more difficult, because we end up creating a lot of single-block opportunities,” Saxby said. “If you’re not predictable and they can’t put the double block on the attacker, then the advantage swings to the attacker over the blocker.”

The Grizzlies are set to host the Seneca Sting on Saturday, which, despite its near-.500 record, is not a team that Georgian will be looking past.

“There are teams that are stronger than others, but at the college level, any team has the ability to win a game on any given day,” Saxby said.

Georgian will be looking to continue on this run for as long as possible, which it hopes to parlay into a good position at the OCAAs.

“We’re looking at going to, but also trying to do well at OCAAs,” Saxby said. “We want to hold first place in the East to get the best seed.

“We think that we should be capturing a medal at OCAAs.”

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