GUELPH, Ont. (from Guelph Gryphons) – It was a performance worthy of the event. The Guelph Gryphons men’s volleyball team said goodbye to three veteran pieces – and then followed that up with a dominant display. The Gryphons defeated the Trent Excalibur 3-0 (25-10, 25-16, 25-13) after honouring seniors Joshua Green, Kaj Wigston and David Duhan on a special night at the GGAC.
“We wanted to make it all about the seniors tonight,” said head coach Cal Wigston.
The touching pre-match ceremony began with the lights dimmed and a video message from former Gryphon athlete and coach Larry Pearson, with each of the seniors receiving a jersey and plaque to recognize their time with the program.
But it was no ordinary Senior Night for the coach.
“I told myself I had to keep it together,” Wigston said, referring to his son’s recognition as a senior. “It was a special moment for me to be together with him and my wife (Sue). That was really cool.”
When the ceremony wrapped up, the Gryphons (7-8) were ruthless. Wigston said there was the danger of a slip up against the winless Excalibur, but the focus was there. Guelph had nine kills and just two errors in a quick opening set, then used a 5-0 run to pull away from Trent in the second, with the seniors and reserves making an impact, including a Duhan, kill on set point.
There was no doubt about the result after the Gryphons opened up the third set 8-0, finishing the match off shortly after that. Matthew Baxter led Guelph with 12 kills, while Green added nine, along with team-highs in digs (six) and blocks (two).
“We took away a lot of what they were trying to do,” said Wigston. “We had set some specific goals and met a lot of them.”
The coach had plenty of praise for the seniors, all of whom were sharp on their special night.
“Josh is one of the hardest working Gryphon athletes we have ever seen,” Wigston said of the fifth-year Bachelor of Commerce, Real Estate student from Georgetown, ON. “Since day one, he did whatever he could to improve his game, never missing an individual workout and never missing a practice. In his role as captain, he strives to make those around him better, while setting a good example on how to be a great student-athlete.”
Wigston said that Duhan’s zest for life and positive attitude have been infectious in his relatively short time with the Gryphons. The Rural Planning and Development student has worked hard – and it has been noticed.
“In only his second year as a varsity volleyball player, Dave has been not just a great player, he has been an incredible teammate,” the coach said of the guy they call ‘DAD.’ “Dave has been a mentor to the guys on the team, all while balancing his masters program.”
While Senior Night is always difficult, Wigston couldn’t be blamed for the extra emotion honouring his son, a fourth-year Psychology major. He said that it has been an interesting relationship, which is very much coach/athlete in then gym, and father/son outside of it.
“Over the past four years Kaj has been called upon to play several roles and has done a great job in mastering those responsibilities,” the elder Wigston said. “Off the court, Kaj, has been responsible for setting up Gryphon Volleyball activities, including an initiative to help schools receive funds to buy new gym equipment. His dedication to Gryphon Volleyball has been fantastic.”
Wigston called all three “critical pieces” to the program.
“Larry said it in his speech,” he noted. “Each of them brought so many different things to the game.”