By Larry Moko
Michael Rendulic of the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals continues to grow as a volleyball player.
At 6-foot-9 in bare feet, he’s just a shade taller than when he took up the sport two years ago. But the real growth is noticeable in his skill development.
“If I compare him from the beginning of last season until now,” Newman coach Paul Augustin said, “he was a good player then and a phenomenal player now. He’s definitely one of the best in the city.”
With that strong presence in the middle, the Cardinals captured a second consecutive Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior high school volleyball championship Thursday. First-place Newman made it back-to-back titles by defeating the second-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, 3-0, (25-17, 25-20, 25-22).
Experts at McMaster University and Ontario Volleyball have noticed Rendulic’s development and potential, too. He’s on the 2022-23 Team Ontario Elite Roster – a program that “aims to provide a support system to identified 17U-18U athletes who have demonstrated a potential to play at the international level within a Junior National team in 1-2 years.”
As for McMaster, the Marauders have signed him to an Ontario university volleyball scholarship offer for next year.
“When he’s out there he dominates,” Augustin said. “We don’t always try to give him the ball, but when we do there will probably be a kill on the other side.”
That’s what happened to end the match against Brebeuf. Rendulic halted an impressive Braves comeback -- from being down, 19-9, to trailing just 22-21 – with three consecutive thundering kill shots.
“Brebeuf put pressure on us at the end,” Rendulic said. “They have a lot of strong players. Overall, it was a tough match.”
Rendulic credits his improvement at the high school level to training with Team Ontario and with his Mountain Athletic Club rep squad.
“We came out with energy and hype,” Augustin said. “All day today the guys were telling me how much they wanted it.
“Everyone did exactly what we asked them to. We were firing on all cylinders.”
The other top point-getters for Newman were Matthew Perron, Nathan Nikolic, Tyson Reynolds and Alex Vanegas.
The rest of the Cardinal lineup included Michael Ciarmoli, Matthew Millar, Joey Wrobel, Nathaniel Pavlic, Noah Letnik, Mikael Rataich, Agapa Goombs, Cameron Cassidy, Anthony Rotella and Lucas Ferritto.
“Newman was moving and quick on their feet,” Brebeuf coach Jennifer Saltarelli said. “They dug every ball.
“We fought our way to this game and we deserved to be here. Overall, we had a great season.”
Brebeuf won 10 of 14 starts during the regular schedule before getting past the Cathedral Gaels (3-0) and the ACMT Jaguars (3-1) in the opening rounds of playoffs.
Jacob Collins, Matthew Szczepanski, Juan Cardona and Nolan Tuck handled most of the Brebeuf scoring against Newman.
Next up for the Cardinals is a Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference AAA semifinal against the Garth Webb Chargers in Oakville Monday.