By Larry Moko
The coaching staff of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior boys’ high school all-star volleyball team stepped aside during time-out huddles and let Cristian Miersma do the talking.
“Cristian is a great player and a great leader,” head coach Mike Fuchs of the Catholic league champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals said. “He motivated the team really well. I had five seconds of stuff that I wanted to make sure I got across to them, and then he communicated what was happening on the court from a player’s perspective.”
“He could be a great coach some day. He’s really good at getting everybody together.”
Selected for the fourth time from the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves as a Catholic all-star, Miersma’s words and actions lifted his squad to a 3-2 victory over the Hamilton Public board’s best during the sixth-annual Battle of Hamilton at Mohawk College Wednesday night.
Miersma was chosen his side’s Most Valuable Player.
The Catholic selects took the back-and-forth fifth set, 18-16.
“Volleyball is such an emotional sport,” Miersma said. “Players tend to get down on themselves a lot. What I tried to say in team huddles was for everybody to just keep their head up.”
Miersma – the Catholic captain -- offered encouragement like ‘we’re doing fine’ and ‘that’s just one mistake, let’s get over it.’ He also suggested what specifically to work on and in which direction to hit the ball.
According to Miersma, he knew the strengths of weaknesses of many of the opposition’s players from being teammates with them in club volleyball for the past five years.
“This game was kind of a friendly rivalry,” he said. “It was a good atmosphere but still really intense.”
The Catholics dropped the first set by the widest margin of the night -- 25-14.
“The Public board had some amazing players,” Fuchs said. “They were really strong hitters. Our kids did a good job of adjusting after that first set. We picked it up.”
Catholic won the next two sets, 25-16 and 26-24, before dropping the fourth set, 25-19.
Fuchs said his objective for the first four sets was to make two lineups and give all the players as much court time as possible. Only in the deciding set did strategic moves and more serious competition become especially important.
“If it gets to the fifth set, you’re hoping to win,” he said. “Fair play kind of goes out the window. This was the fourth (all-star game) I’ve been involved with and the first one I’ve won.”
Other HWCDSB players were: Adam Antolin, Gabriel Anton and Nicholas Rendulic (Cardinal Newman); Justin Garcia and Daniel Graham (Brebeuf); Jacques Audette and Jacob Hudspeth (ACMT); Brian DaCosta and Kirk Rosos (Cathedral); Aaron Guagliano (St. Thomas More); Connor McPherson (Bishop Ryan); Connor Ogg (St. Mary); Nathan Pittaway (Bishop Tonnos).
Samuel Cooper of Hamilton District Christian was selected Most Valuable Player of the Public squad for a third consecutive year.
“It was a great evening for the volleyball community,” Fuchs said. “It was a great showcase.”