By Larry Moko
The streaky St. John Henry Newman Cardinals have advanced to the 2022 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior boys’ high school volleyball final.
Winners of their first 12 starts this season, the Cardinals then dropped two consecutive matches – against St. Thomas More and St. Mary – to end the regular schedule.
But coach Paul Augustin’s first-place squad eliminated the Bishop Tonnos Titans, 3-0, in the opening playoff round and made it two straight victories with a 3-0 decision over the St. Thomas More Knights in semifinal action Tuesday.
The Cardinals’ opponent in Thursday’s championship game will be the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves.
“We just got beat, that’s all there is to it,” More coach Brad Thurston said. “They are the best team in the city.”
Playing on home court, Newman got past fourth-place More by set scores of 25-11, 25-16 and 25-15.
Tyson Reynolds, Alex Vanega, Matthew Perron and Michael Rendulic were the leading point-getters for the defending champions from Newman. With Reynolds serving, the Cardinals pulled away with five unanswered points in the first set and six straight in the second set.
Rendulic, a 6-foot-9 middle, hammered down several spikes which each time drew enthusiastic eruptions from the fans.
“The guys were fired up,” Augustin said. “They beat us during the regular season so we didn’t underestimate them. We know STM is a strong team.”
According to Augustin, sickness sidelined several of Newman’s key players during those back-to-back losses.
“I don’t want to blame it completely on sickness, though,” he said. “We weren’t passing as well or hitting as well. And our morale was kind of low. The losses showed were not invincible. They really brought the team together.”
Reacting to Newman’s semifinal sweep, Augustin said: “We came out with energy which doesn’t always happen at the start. We played a fantastic game offensively and defensively. Everybody was clicking. We were passing the ball well, attacking well and communicating well.”
A veteran captain of the team, Perron played a large part in the outcome.
“Matthew was getting the kills and being smart about placing the ball where it needs to be,” Augustin said. “He’s also a phenomenal passer. He’s a well-rounded player – one of the strongest left sides in the league.
“He meshes with the guys and keeps everyone together.”
Perron’s father, Dave, coaches the ACMT Jaguars and the two almost got to face each other in the league final.
However, third-place ACMT lost, 3-1, to second-place Brebeuf in the semis.
The Braves, 10-4 during the regular season, downed the Jaguars 25-20, 20-25, 25-20 and 25-19.
Dave Perron has been coaching at ACMT for almost a decade.
“It’s friendly competition,” Matthew said of the previous meetings between Newman and his dad’s high school team. “We both want to win.”
Matthew plays setter for the Ancaster Lions 18U rep team that his father coaches.
Dave Perron also has coached a few Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic all-star teams against the Hamilton Public all-stars. That annual exhibition is scheduled for Dec. 14 at Mohawk College.