Branksome eyes finals

WAITING TO EXHALE: Branksome Hall’s Emily Kawaguchi, #6, tips a ball over St. Clement’s defenders during CISAA Division 1 senior girls volleyball. The Highlanders won 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-16).

De La Salle and Havergal will test Highlanders mettle

Branksome Hall is hungry for a CISAA Division 1 championship rematch.

After losing the final to Havergal Gators last season, the Highlanders continue their march through the 2010-11 regular season, facing midtown school St. Clement’s Jan. 27.

Winning 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-16), the game was not so much a challenge for striker Emily Kawaguchi but more a test of confidence.

“We didn’t have to exert ourselves too much,” she said. “We were kind of a little quieter.

“In some of our other games against Havergal we’ll be a little bit rowdier.”

Still, the tandem duo of Kawaguchi and her former beach volleyball teammate Shelby Canvin worked to unravel the Clementines’ defence.

“Our rotation has us both setting and hitting, which is convenient so we’re able to make plays,” she said. “When we’re ahead, we also try to set everyone else so everyone touches the ball.”

Their motion as a machine was near flawless. After St. Clement’s lost their opening serve in the first set, Kawaguchi and company piled up eight straight points before St. Clement’s middle Sarah Ryan tipped the Wilson back over to touch hardwood.

Though it took Clementines’ key players Ryan and Marissa Krausz to warm up their offence — hitting their stride by the third set — last year’s Division 2 champs are adjusting well to being a level up.

It’s all due to their coach, Wendy Girvan.

“In the third game our coach made it a rule that we had to go into the middle of the court every time and just give each other a pat on the back,” Ryan said.

Girvan in turn, admired her squad’s improvement by the third set.

“It’s good volleyball,” she said. “I keep telling the kids they’re going to get better because playing against really good players makes them better players.

“Half the group is grade 11 so they’re maturing and figuring out for next year.”

Still, Girvan admitted her charges needed some extra vim in their volleys.

“What I said after the second game our emotions were a little low,” she said. “We need to kick it up emotionally, have fun, cheer each other on because volleyball is a game of momentum.”

Branksome coach Vishnu Persaud looks to keep his girls focused on the prize: vindication over the Gators in the finals.

“Last year we probably should have won the championship,” he said. “We fell a little short and we’re looking to avenge that loss to Havergal. They always have the biggest rivalry every year.”

What they’ll need to hone is their service.

“Although we were serving well today, it can get better,” he said. “Without the service we can’t work on our offence and without our offence we can’t win games.”

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