Times are tough for the College of the Rockies Avalanche men, there’s no doubt about it.
Injuries are piling up, the flu is going around, and the team is 0-4 in the season’s second semester.
While Head coach Herb Tepper knows the situation looks bleak, he is still reasonably confident in his volleyball team’s chances as they play in their final road matches of the year with four-straight against Douglas College and Capilano University.
“We certainly know that we can compete well against both those teams,” Tepper said on Tuesday. “We know both teams, we understand what they can and can’t do, but it’s really more about us.
“We have to play at a high level in order to beat them, especially [when they’re] at home.”
The last time the men faced the Douglas Royals and the Capilano Blues was at the COTR gymnasium back in late October and early November, where they swept the Royals with a pair of 3-1 wins before splitting with the Blues 3-1 and 2-3.
As Tepper is quickly learning, however, wins aren’t something that can ever be expected.
“I always want to be competitive [and] wins are a bonus,” he said. “[Wins] are hard to get in this league, that’s one of the biggest things that I’m realizing as a first year coach.
“Being competitive [though] is something that you always do — it’s an attitude, being prepared — that’s something we can bring every night.”
The Avs, however, will be seriously challenged by injuries. Even with a bye week, the team’s top player, sophomore Patrik Toze is not at full health after hitting the floor hard in the last minutes of their final game against Camosun.
“He’s starting to recover but I wouldn’t even put him at 75%,” Tepper said on the Australian outside hitter. “The good news is that it wasn’t as severe as it looked at the time.”
Toze was also hit with a flu bug that has been going around the COTR volleyball program, which Tepper said has also impacted a few other players.
According to the coach, the lack of good health that has plagued the team all year is especially difficult in these late stages of the year where players’ PACWEST careers — Toze included — are winding down.
“It’s been challenging for our [injured veteran players] because they realize this is the crunch time of the season and they obviously want to perform, but they’re limited by their injuries,” he said. “The most important thing is that they recover for Provincials, that’s really the big focus.”
In the meantime, due to the ailments and the busy stretch, Tepper is hoping to continue receiving improved play from his bench players.
“[I feel more confident in them] all the time [because] we’re now in our second semester and the first-year players are developing,” he said. “I’ll have to use some of them, I don’t think I’ll have much of a choice since we play four days in a row.
“We’re the only team that has to do that, which is a bit of a disadvantage to us but we just have to take it on as a challenge.”
As much as the odds seem stacked against them, the Avs will certainly be giving this weekend their all. With the top six of seven teams making the BC Provincials at the end of February, and the Columbia Bible College Bearcats owning a 0-18 record, the 6-10 Avs shouldn’t have to worry too much, but they need to get their season back on track.
“All these matches as we go towards Provincials become more and more important to developing confidence and hopefully a winning attitude,” Tepper said. “It’s hard to be confident if you’re losing.”
The Avalanche men and women kick off their road trip on Thursday night at Douglas College, who they play again on Friday before heading to Capilano for back-to-back matches on Saturday and Sunday. Following the weekend, the Avs will only have four games remaining in their season, all at home.