From Elite Players to Elite Coaches

From Elite Players to Elite Coaches: Maga and Cerovac Lead Titans' Charge
Posted on 03/02/2024

By Larry Moko
Two ‘all-star’ coaches are teaming up again in hopes of guiding the Bishop Tonnos Titans to a second-consecutive OFSAA girls’ volleyball championship.

The Tonnos brain trust is comprised of Alvisia Maga and Dennis Cerovac who, between them, were named to five Ontario university all-star volleyball teams during their playing days.

Both were left sides on the court. Maga represented the McMaster Marauders while Cerovac excelled with the Toronto Varsity Blues.
Earlier this week the pair put the Titans through final preparations for the annual provincial high school championship tournament, March 4-6, in Markham.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic champion Titans are seeded No. 1 among the 20 AAA entries.

“It’s pretty unusual,” Maga said of the Tonnos coaching tandem’s competitive background. Few high school programs even have one former elite university performer on their sideline never mind two.

“Maybe you see it more in the OVA where you have former varsity athletes who are giving back to their community by imparting that knowledge,” Maga said. “You don’t see it as much in high school.”

Each, it should be noted, has a daughter in the Titans lineup -- Grade 11 setter Avaya Maga and Grade 10 left side Alyssa Cerovac.
How, you might ask, do Maga and Cerovac divide up the responsibilities?

“Dennis does all the in-game serve calling,” said coach Maga, the teacher rep on staff at Tonnos. “I’m usually all paper work and practice planning.

“At the start of the game we’ll discuss what roster we want to use and who we think should play which position. Then, in between sets, we’ll talk about whether we need to do any offensive or defensive adjustments.”

Immediately after graduating from Mac, Maga served as a Marauders assistant for three years under head coach Tim Louks.  Said Maga: “He was kind of my mentor for the initial part of my coaching career.  And he still is my mentor. I send him messages and ask how he would game plan.”

Maga also coached in the OVA for five years before returning to lead the Tonnos senior girls’ team.

As for coach Cerovac, after leaving the U of T, he didn’t come back to the high school scene until last year when Tonnos captured OFSAA gold in Barrie. He also has extensive experience coaching  for the Mountain Volleyball Club.

“It’s pretty special,” coach Cerovac said of his association with Maga at the Ancaster school. “I don’t think anything like it exists anywhere else. We both have a competitive mind set.”

Cerovac won four city championships while playing for the legendary Jos Nederveen at St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School. He then was a three-time OUA all-star with the Toronto squad that rolled to five consecutive league titles.
Tonnos will be in the same pool as Bayside (20), St. Peter’s (16), Sinclair (6) and Franco-Cite (11).

“I’m feeling a little pressure,” coach Maga said. “Last year, as the No. 8 seed, we were flying under the radar. Now we’re seeded No. 1.”
Another Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference team  – Oakville Trafalgar – is seeded second. Tonnos recently lost the first set against OT before storming back to prevail 3-1 in the GHAC final.

“One of our big strengths is our versatility and roster depth,” coach Maga said. “The fact that we have four high-level Team Ontario players that can play left side or right side on any given day is awesome.”

For example, in consecutive playoff starts the Titans utilized Alyssa Cerovac, then Kennedy Llewelyn and then Maryn Llewellyn at right side.

“We had different rotational players every time,” she said. “It allows us the ability to be one up on our opponents. It’s a huge strength. It’s something they can’t necessarily plan for.”

But the driving force behind the Titans is Avaya Maga. She has verbally committed to play on scholarship for the Sooners at University of Oklahoma. The coach’s daughter also was an MVP for the national 17U champion Halton Hurricanes and trained with the Canada’s Program of Excellence earlier this season.

“Avaya is a great setter,” coach Maga said. “She can put the ball in locations where our hitters can have a lot of success.”
Avaya and Alyssa are both veterans of Tonnos’ 2023 title run.

“I think we’re ready,” coach Cerovac said. “The team is pumped. We know what to expect. The girls are going in with a really good head space this year.”

All tournament games are scheduled for the Pan Am Centre.

Photos by Richard Andoga
More photos on the HWCDSB Athletics Facebook page here