Avs show heart in tough opening weekend

College of the Rockies men’s and women’s volleyball teams played Camosun and VIU on the road. The women went 3-1 and the men went 0-4.

  • Oct. 17, 2016 12:00 p.m.

Brad McLeod

The College of the Rockies men’s and women’s volleyball teams knew that opening their season with a four-game road trip on Vancouver Island wouldn’t be easy. They were proved absolutely correct.

The women’s team went 1-3 against Camosun and Vancouver Island University, while the men came up empty going 0-4. However, despite the high percentage of losses, both coaches saw positive signs in their teams’ performances and are not overly concerned with their slow starts at all.

“Ideally we [would’ve gone] two-and-two, that would’ve been nice, but to get at least one win on the road is good,” said women’s coach John Swanson. “It’s [always] a tough [trip] when you travel to the Island just because of [the] distance.”

Despite the 12-hour bus journey to Camosun College, the women’s Avs played very well in their first set of the season defeating the Chargers 27-25 in a very competitive opening match which they ended up losing 3-1.

“[The first one] was kind of a strange match because we came out brilliantly … we were quite dominant in the first set,” Swanson said. “[We] give Camosun credit, they came and challenged us and made it very, very close [in the latter stage of] the first set and then we just lost a lot of momentum and [in] the next three sets I think we played quite poorly.”

The next night was almost a mirror reverse of the first match. The Avs came out of the gate very slowly with an 11-25 loss before winning the next three matches.

“[In the first set] we were playing timid and not very aggressive and then we had a bit of a team meeting between sets and [I] challenged the ladies again to stay competitive and once we gained some confidence — and improved our passing — we played very well.

“We showed our true colours in the second match against Camosun.”

Although on Saturday and Sunday against VIU the Avs lost in straight sets, they remained competitive and got up to over 20 points twice in the six sets, against last year’s national champions.

“We had some moments [against VIU] where we were competitive, in the second set [on Sunday] we had ourselves in a good situation, we just had three key errors that really were the difference,” Swanson said. “Those are tough situations but as a team, we’ll learn from that [and] as long as we can change those outcomes […] that’s growth.

“I kind of felt [that on Sunday] if we won that second set we [may have] gained confidence [and] maybe the outcome would’ve been different.”

Although Swanson didn’t want to make any excuses, he did admit that the final losses could’ve been a result of the difficulty of being on the road.

“To the ladies defense, it was the fourth match in four days of intense volleyball and you’re not in your own bed and you’re eating out […] I was proud of the ladies for how they battled and stayed strong.”

The team was led by a standout performance from right side hitter Mikaela Pushor who had a whopping 36 digs, 39 kills, and 13 blocks over the four matches. Libero Alexa Koshman also played a key role in the victory, picking up a team-leading 36 digs in just three matches. Second-year outside hitter Adriel Goodman was also strong with 27 digs and 31 kills, while playing every set.

On the men’s side, the Avs were in an even tougher situation as the Camosun side they started off playing against have been the PACWEST provincial champions for the last two seasons.

The men were fairly competitive in their opening match, losing in four sets and managing to keep themselves alive with a 25-22 victory after going down by two.

“[In that set] we had a high kill percentage, had very few unforced errors and definitely played at a level that we will become accustomed to in the future,” said coach Herb Tepper. “The biggest thing [right now] that is hurting us is unforced errors and I know that will change as we move forward through the season.”

The Avs lost the second match against Camosun and the next two against VIU in straight sets, but even in their defeats, they fought hard to the end. In the closing sets against VIU, the Avs put up over 20 points both nights, falling 25-22 and 25-21.

“They certainly battled, [on Saturday], we were down 20-15 and came back to make it a match,” Tepper said. “That was our goal, to try to get at least to 20 [points] — to compete you have to be over 20 — we didn’t achieve it in a few sets but it was good to see in those final sets that they didn’t want to give up.”

Tepper said that overall he was happy to see the team get better and believes that winning results will come as a result of these learning experiences.

“We improved as the weekend went on — we had really good moments — we’re just, unfortunately, a little bit up-and-down,” he said. “Quite honestly, [Camosun and VIU] are just simply better than us at this stage in the season.

“We still hung in there most of the time — that was positive. Obviously, we didn’t get the results we wanted but [we] are improving.”

Sophomore outside hitter Patrik Toze led the team offensively with 31 kills, while also picking up 19 digs, three blocks, and two aces.

Both Avs teams now have some time off before their home openers against Douglas College on Friday, October 28. The teams will take advantage of the downtime by getting some practice in on their newly renovated home court. Both the Douglas College men’s and women’s teams are currently sitting atop the league after two games, both going 2-0 in their opening matches.

Women’s Results

Oct. 13 @ Camosun L 3-1 (25-27, 25-18, 25-15, 25-23)

Oct. 14 @ Camosun W 3-1 (11-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-23)

Oct. 15 @ VIU L 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-23)

Oct. 16 @ VIU L 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-17)

Men’s Results

Oct. 13 @ Camosun L 3-1 (25-18, 25-16, 22-25, 25-16)

Oct. 14 @ Camosun L 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-18)

Oct. 15 @ VIU L 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-22)

Oct. 16 @ VIU L 3-0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-21)