Avs ready to hit the road to open new season

Both men and women's team heading to Vancouver Island to begin the new Pacwest campaign.

The men and women’s Avalanche are ready to roll into the new season, kicking things off with a road trip to Vancouver Island where they will face Camosun College and Vancouver Island University for a four-game stretch.

The women’s team has been together since the end of August, working with the new recruits in practice and tuning up in some preseason tournaments at home and abroad.

Now, it’s time to put all that work to the test.

“I think everyone’s getting a little more confident in their play, here at the college,” said Allison Pepper, who plays middle. “It’s a lot different pace from high school, getting into the college pace. Everyone got to play in the last two tournaments and they’ve gotten a bit of a confidence boost, knowing that they do belong on the team and that they can play at this level and so I think everyone’s pretty pumped to get into the season.”

Pepper, along with Jen Pilon and Kelsey Thompson, form the leadership corps of the women’s team, as all three are returning veterans from last year.

While the games themselves will be tough, the whole trip in itself—four games in as many nights—will test the body and the mind.

“There’s not much I can really do—it all depends on them, and each player is different,” said women’s head coach Agata Bendkowska. “Some struggle still, some of them are already good to go. I think that time is the right answer, they just need experience and time and as many playing situations as they can possibly get, to get over the first-year nerves.”

While the road trips can be a strain on the players, it helps towards team bonding, said Pilon.

“It’s hard. It’s a long time to be away, and homework-wise and school-wise, you got to prepare well in advance,” she said. “But it’s fun too, the trips is when our team really comes together and we really get to know each other and bond.”

Pepper added that it’s important to take care of the body with proper nutrition and rest.

“You have to look after yourself and you have to figure out what you need per game to be mentally and physically prepared, so this will be a good experience and hopefully we can succeed.”

With more than a few first-year players on the team, it will be a challenge to see how they adapt to their first experience on the road at the college level.

However, Bendkowska feels that they’re ready.

“I think that, working so hard from the end of August and having those two tournaments, I feel like the girls are definitely ready, and they cannot wait for the first game, but at the same time they are very scared,” Bendkowska said. “They know, and I can feel, that the pressure is huge.

“…I’m hoping that we can fight that anxiety, fight that pressure and go there and play well and come back with some wins.”

Though this is the first Pacwest league matches, the team has refined their game through two exhibition tournaments at home and in Red Deer.

Focusing on their own game and their own needs within the matches will be key to victory, said Thompson.

“We just have to play simple volleyball. If we can keep our game, it doesn’t matter what they do, we can play with the best of them right now,” said Thompson. “We’re strong enough hitters, defence-wise too, we can play with them all.”