Avalanche open season on the road

College of the Rockies volleyball season begins on the road in the Lower Mainland.

The Avalanche are rolling down the the Lower Mainland.

Both men’s and women’s volleyball teams from the College of the Rockies are on the road to open the new Pacwest season with a four-game stretch this weekend, as they play Douglas College and Capilano University each twice.

The season is particularly special for both Avalanche teams, as the College of the Rockies will host the provincial championships at the end.

However, the trick will be getting into it.

The host team does not automatically qualify for entry into the tournament like it used to, so both Avalanche teams will have to challenge themselves to make sure their record is good enough to make the cut.

“I think that would be kind of embarrassing if we’re hosting provincials, but we’re not in it,” said Jenna Swetlikoff, a middle with the women’s team. “So I think everyone’s going to be pushing harder to win so that we will be in provincials because that’d be awful if we were lining in our own gym.

“It’ll put a little bit of pressure on us but it’ll force us to work harder.”

The girls have had a pretty successful exhibition season, with a four-match tournament in Red Deer that ended with a few very close losses and one win. Following that, both Avalanche teams hosted a preseason tournament at home and the ladies earned three wins in a row.

“Everyone was clicking really well, everyone was really positive,” said Swetlikoff. “When something went wrong, no one was getting mad at each other, no one was blaming each other.

“I think when it came down to it we were just pushing really hard when it mattered and if we were ahead, not letting it slide from under us, so overall, I think just the energy on the court was really good.”

That energy has translated into some good performances on the court, which has allowed the team to identify it’s strengths.

“When we’re passing well, we can hit really well,” said Swetlikoff. “We got some new girls that can just kill the ball, but we can only hit like that if we pass well so I think we lack a bit in our defence, but when we are playing well, our offence is really great.”

Ladies head coach Agata Bendkowska said her team is looking to show the Pacwest league what they can do this year.

“The team is ready, we want to go,” said Bendkowska. “We are going to do the best we can—of course we want to win, that’s our goal—so hopefully we can succeed.”

The men’s team is just as excited to get the season started, and while the guys didn’t have the preseason success like their counterparts, they still feel like they’re ready, according to fifth-year player David Wiebe.

The Rumble in the Rockies preseason tournament in their home court against some high-level CIS teams gave the guys a good test of their skills as a team, he continued.

“We showed that we can compete with even those kinds of teams with that calibre, so I feel like at the college league, we’ll be alright,” Wiebe said.

Wiebe said the men’s Avalanche team has something it hasn’t had for the last few years: solid defence.

“We can dig the ball up, we can chase down balls that some teams might not be able to get,” he continued.

“We’re going to have a big block, so our blocking isn’t going to be an issue, it’s just going to be the defence around that and our commitment to hard work, which is communication and effort.”