By Martin Cleary
The undefeated Franco-Cité Faucons boys’ senior volleyball team has moved up in the world.
They had no choice.
The National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association rules governing high school sport dictated the Faucons become a AAA-division team, the highest level, after years of dominating the AA-division league.
The Franco-Cité school population has reached about 1,000 students, which meant it must graduate to the AAA category and play against the largest schools in the province at the OFSAA championships.
Since it has a Sport-Études program, where student-athletes combine academics with specific sport training, and attracts students from outside its geographical boundaries, Franco-Cité had a second reason to graduate to the highest level.
In its first major test at the premier level, Franco-Cité had an unfamiliar start to its OFSAA boys’ AAA volleyball championship. The Faucons opened the tournament Thursday in Kingston defeating Monarch Park of Toronto 25-20, 25-15, but lost to Garth Webb of Oakville 26-24, 13-25, 18-16 and Uxbridge 25-15, 25-20.
The Faucons finish round-robin play Friday with a match against Thomas A. Stewart of Peterborough.
Meanwhile, Béatrice-Desloges put itself in a strong position to advance to the OFSAA boys’ AA volleyball championship quarterfinals in Huntsville by winning its first three round-robin games. Desloges defeated Regiopolis-Notre Dame of Kingston 25-21, 25-23, Harbord of Toronto 25-15, 23-25, 15-9, and Huntsville 25-12, 25-14.
At the three Ontario girls’ basketball championships, Ottawa and area teams had a mix of results in the first round.
No. 15-seed Béatrice-Desloges upset No. 4 Lo-Ellen Park of Sudbury 47-40 at the class AA championship in Stratford, while No. 3 Perth outscored Englehart 62-27 and No. 5 Arnprior District turned back Birchmount Park of Toronto 76-36.
Osgoode Township, the No. 7 seed, overcame a two-point deficit at halftime and defeated Horizon of Sudbury 52-43 in the A tournament in Walkerton. Taylor Cassidy scored 13 points for Osgoode.
Earl of March lost its first two games to high-seeded teams during the AAA championship in Belle River. March dropped into the consolation round, after losing to No. 5 Pickering 53-25 and No. 2 Holy Names of Windsor 67-30.
Franco-Cité qualified for the OFSAA boys’ AAA championship tournament by dominating the NCSSAA’s new league format, posting an 11-0 start-to-finish record, winning 33 sets and losing only one.
The Faucons were first in the East 1 Division at 6-0, losing their only set to Béatrice-Desloges, which qualified for the OFSAA boys’ AA volleyball championship. After a pair of overlap wins against De La Salle and Desloges, Franco-Cité used 3-0 scores to turn back Nepean in the quarterfinals, Desloges in the semifinals and De La Salle in the Diamond Division championship game.
During the 2021-22 COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season, Franco-Cité had its first unofficial AAA experience in the NCSSAA league. The Faucons won the Central Division title at 7-0 as well as two playoff games for its first city AAA championship. But the team didn’t attend OFSAA because of board travel restrictions.
From 2003 to 2019, the Faucons celebrated nine NCSSAA boys’ AA titles and advanced to the OFSAA championships, where it won the gold medal in 2014 and 2016. The school also has won three silver and one bronze medals at OFSAA.
Franco-Cité’s undefeated 2022 season also includes five tournament victories in the Ottawa region. They didn’t lose a game in any tournament.
“This year, we are a legitimate AAA team so we’re going up against the best,” Franco-Cité head coach Thierry Lavigne said in an interview before travelling to Kingston for its OFSAA championship.
“Early on, we knew we had a great group of guys, who had a lot of volleyball experience at the club level. After a couple of tournaments, we saw that we were in the driver’s seat. But we had to keep getting better. We had a great record. But we are about to see if we are battle ready.”
The Faucons showed the strength of their team during the NCSSAA season.
“I feel it’s the depth, we have guys with experience, the luxury of our sports program (Sport-Études) and the guys are dedicated after school,” Lavigne explained.
“They play club volleyball and it’s no secret they put in the time. We have 13 guys who can play. There are not many holes on the team. We are a competitive, deep team and can pick apart our opponents.”
It’s also no secret the players have benefited from the Franco-Cité volleyball culture, which starts in Grade 7.
Besides 11 NCSSAA boys’ senior AA and AAA titles, the Faucons also have won seven city boys’ junior championships with coach Lavigne.
“Our volleyball culture is very strong. We have a lot of skilled players and do a great job (beginning in) Grade 7 to create the passion,” he added. “They play a lot at school and outside our walls.
“I’ve seen this group for four years, developed strong relationships and have seen the passion. After two to three years, I have seen leaders (emerge), who can influence the young players.”
Lavigne has no grand plan about winning the OFSAA title in the first year of AAA competition, but is aiming to reach the third and final day of the championship.
“Results wise, I’d love to play on Saturday. That would put us in the Final Four,” he said. “As a coach, you want the kids to play to their potential and have the kids enjoy the moment.
“The seniors want to have a great tournament. If they play well, that’s even better. We know there will be adversity as this is the first time in this group. The guys have experience and we’ll face teams as talented as us and better.
“We’ll stick to the basics. We’ll keep it simple and let the talent speak for itself. They’re skilled. After that, I hope they enjoy the moment.”
NCSSAA CROWNED 7 BOYS’ VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONS
The NCSSAA divided the boys’ volleyball teams into seven divisions of seven teams each, but the East 1 grouping was the most productive.
Franco-Cité (6-0) and De La Salle (5-1) met in the top Diamond Division final with the Faucons winning the title 3-0. Béatrice-Desloges (4-2) was third and defeated fourth-place Samuel-Genest (3-3) in the play-in game to attend the OFSAA boys’ AA championship.
The Faucons were the only one of seven NCSSAA regular-season division champions to win a playoff title, while Cairine Wilson, the East 3 pennant winner, reached the Silver Division final.
Here are the NCSSAA boys’ volleyball champions for 2022:
DIAMOND DIVISION (1st-4th): Franco-Cité defeated De La Salle 3-0.
PLATINUM DIVISION (5th-8th): Sir Robert Borden defeated A.Y. Jackson 3-2.
GOLD DIVISION (9th-12th): Ridgemont defeated Ashbury 3-2.
SILVER DIVISION (13th-16th): Colonel By defeated Cairine Wilson 3-0.
BRONZE DIVISION (17th-20th): South Carleton defeated Hillcrest 3-1.
COPPER DIVISION (21st-24th): Notre Dame defeated Immaculata 3-1.
COOKIE JAR: Woodroffe defeated St. Laurent Academy 3-1.
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Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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