Their season is still almost two weeks away, but the College of the Rockies women’s volleyball team is already winning. The defending PACWEST champions got some preseason action in this past weekend and won three of six matches against some of the best competition Alberta has to offer.
The annual Wild Rose tournament, held in Red Deer, gave the Avalanche a chance to play around with their roster and start multiple different combinations of players, while also competing against some top class ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) teams.
“[I] felt great about how we played, we were able to get a lot of players playing [and] I think the ladies competed well [and] never gave up,” said coach John Swanson. “It was a fantastic experience.”
The Avalanche got off to a great start on Friday when they beat Ambrose College in three straight sets before defeating Lethbridge 2-1.
Swanson said that what impressed him most about the team’s effort was how all of the players worked together effectively.
“I appreciated [that] whoever we had on the court, in any kind of combination, they all worked well together [and] they all supported each other,” he said. “I think collectively, I was really proud of the way the ladies played.”
While the Avs split their Saturday games, losing to Red Deer 2-1 and beating the University of Alberta-Augustana 3-0, they did not fare as well in the elimination round.
In the quarter finals on Sunday, the team lost to Red Deer 2-1 before being defeated by Ambrose 2-1 in the 5th/6th place match.
For Swanson, however, the focus of the trip was not on the games the team won or lost, but on the experience and the opportunity to test out different player combinations.
“We did work on what we think our core group will be [and] allowed them to play together and get used to each other on the court,” Swanson said. “But, we had other situations where everybody played and some would play different positions [and] it didn’t matter who was on the floor, we were always a competitive unit.
“I think that’s a credit to the ladies that we have — whether you’re a third year or a first year, you’re out there to do a job and to compete and work with your teammates.”
The Avalanche now have to wait until October 13 to play another game, when they kick off their PACWEST season on Vancouver Island. In the meantime they won’t be relaxing — they have five practices to fine-tune their game before they set out to defend their conference title.
“What we’re going to focus on [in practice] is getting a cohesive unit and some continuity,” Swanson explained. “[We’ll be] polishing off our offensive systems, defensive combinations and positioning [and] mentally and physically preparing for [what’s going to be] a very, very competitive league.”
After allowing the entire roster to get playing time in Red Deer, Swanson said that throughout the coming weeks this year’s starters will begin to get more of the focus in practice situations.
“As we prepare for our league matches, we’re going to have some players who are going to get a few more touches, and that’s just reality for what we have to do to prepare for our league,” he said. “But we feel pretty good about where we are going [into the season].”
They may not have won this particular preseason tournament, but the Avalanche showed they were still winners with their teamwork and perseverance.
The Avalanche have their first four league matches on the road against Camosun College and Vancouver Island University before returning home to face Douglas College on Friday, October 28 at what will be their newly renovated court at the College of the Rockies gymnasium.