The Fanshawe Falcons made it to their very last match of 2017-18 without losing.
They did what no Falcons men’s volleyball team has done before and they fell just shy of a first-ever national championship for the school.
Fanshawe lost three sets to one to last year’s runner-up, Les Titans de Limoilou.
The Falcons began the gold medal match with a big lead and a first-set victory by a score of 25-19.
Les Titans had come close against Red Deer in London in 2017 and seemed to use that experience the rest of the way as they nabbed 25-22 wins in consecutive sets and then finished up with a 25-19 victory in the fourth.
Despite the loss, the Falcons captured Fanshawe’s first Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) silver medal in volleyball.
The Falcons defeated the number three ranked Vancouver Island University Mariners three sets to two in their quarter-final match to begin the championship tournament in Victoria B.C. and then took care of the Géants de Saint-Jean in the semis on Saturday.
Fanshawe achieved other firsts in 2017-18, equipped with the Ontario College Athletics Association (OCAA) player of the year in Londoner Cole Jordan and a system that felt very much like an offensive avalanche.
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They became the first Falcons men’s volleyball team to compile a perfect record through the regular season. They steamrolled through most matches and even survived a 41-39 marathon against the Humber Hawks on the road on the final night of the regular season to preserve their perfect 18-0 record.
Fanshawe went 3-0 at the OCAA tournament and then 2-1 at the national championships for an overall mark of 23-1 on the year.
They took over the No. 1 ranking in the country ahead of Les Titans de Limoilou late in the season.
The Falcons were edged out by Medicine Hat in the bronze medal match last year and Jordan (who wasn’t on the team) says that has stuck with the returning players.
“The fact that they couldn’t win it last year kind of motivated us this year.”
Their head coach Patrick Johnson decided to implement a system that is rarely used in the game.
“It is extremely uncommon,” admits Jordan, who attended Oakridge Secondary School in London. “I don’t think any other team anywhere is doing it. It is the first time I’ve ever seen it and it is cool to watch.”
The Falcons make use of four outside hitters instead of the usual three. That means any of the five players on the floor might receive a set at any time, making them especially difficult to defend.
Add that to the never-say-die attitude amongst the players and you have the ingredients needed to go as far as Fanshawe did.
“We just come together after every point as a team,” says Jordan. “If we mess up, we just say to each other, ‘next ball’ and focus on the next point every time.”
Point by point, set by set, match by match and step by step.
While they didn’t win the last match they played, they won more than enough to be remembered as one of the best volleyball teams the OCAA and the CCAA have ever seen.
Notes: The Oakridge Oaks Senior Girls Volleyball team won gold at OFSAA on Wednesday, March 7, beating St. Marcellinus of Mississauga three sets to one.