The Nipissing Lakers have captured the 2012-13 OCAA Men's Volleyball title after holding off a Mohawk Mountaineers squad that gave them all they could handle in five sets (25-16, 20-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-7), they were crowned OCAA champions.
"Words can't really describe; it hasn't really sunken in. I'm so happy for my guys, we've been so up-and-down all year," Nipissing head coach Eric Yung said.
"We've had some battles, injuries, not playing to our potential, made a lot of mistakes on my part as a coach [but] it's been a great experience so far. I'm very happy for my senior players that worked so hard for me the last few years. No on deserves it more than them."
The early stages of the opening set was like a tug-of-war between the two, with neither holding more than a four-point advantage.
Leading 15-14, Nipissing reeled seven straight points to jump ahead 22-15 and then closed out the set 25-16.
The second frame was a similar story, only this time with Mohawk taking charge. They led 20-16 and scored five of the final nine points to level the match at a set apiece, with a 25-20 win.
The narrative of the match followed a similar arc in the third set with the Lakers' biggest lead being four, 12-8, only to see Mohawk pull in front 18-17.
Nipissing then leap-frogged the Mountaineers, leading 20-18, and were able to sideout on the opportunities Mohawk had to return to the service line, claiming the set 25-21 with Taylor Bielby capping the scoring off of a one-on-one stuff block.
Facing elimination for the first time in the post-season, the Mountaineers staked themselves to leads of 5-2 and 7-5, before Nipissing pulled in front 10-7.
That lead was extended as high as four, 15-11, but Mohawk refused to let their hopes end there and were relentless on the block - not always getting them down on the floor, but extending plays long enough to give themselves opportunities - and a 6-0 run gave them a 17-15 lead.
They would not relinquish it either, forcing the match to its limit with a 25-21 win.
Mohawk would serve to start the fifth set and it allowed the Lakers to get off to a good start when Bielby dumped the second ball to the middle of the floor, giving Nipissing a 1-0 lead, that quickly turned into 3-0 after a pair of blocks.
After re-grouping in a timeout, Mohawk clawed their way back to within one, only to see the Lakers pull the carpet out from underneath them by scoring six of the next seven points to lead 9-3.
From that point, Mohawk could never get closer than that five-point cushion.
Nipissing would close out the match by a 15-7 margin, with the final three points all emphatic in nature, as Bielby - followed twice by Adam Leblanc - scored points off the block.
Calendar 2013 had not gotten off to the best start for Nipissing, as they lost five of their first seven matches to start the second half of the season - including a three-match skid that ended January and began February - but Yung says there was not a moment when the team didn't believe a run like this was possible.
"They never stopped believing, I never stopped knowing," he said.
"If we have a full line-up when we're playing, we're pretty tough to handle. I'm always a believer and I'm always confident in our guys. It was good lesson for me from the [downtimes] so it was good knowing that we could come back and come here and play at this level at the end of the year."
Submitted to BayToday.ca