They haven’t really been resting that much over their break, but the College of the Rockies Avalanche men’s volleyball team know that they need to take their game to another level on Friday night.
Playing their first match since November 19, against the Capilano Blues, the Avs know that a home match at COTR is a lot different than time spent at the gym or in practice.
“We’ve been working on getting incrementally better in small steps, [but] now [that] game day is almost here, we have to remember to take that little extra step,” said head coach Cisco Farrero. “It’s special to be able to play in front of your home crowd. For some of our athletes, this will be their final semester, and I want them really to enjoy it, live in the moment, and to achieve some victories.”
The match is one of eight home games on the COTR schedule in their 12-game second semester. The increased share of matches in Cranbrook should help the team improve from their 4-8, second-last in the PACWEST record.
“We’re currently in the [final] playoff spot, but we don’t have anything clinched,” Farrero said. “We get the opportunity to earn it [though]. It’s going to take at least three more wins to get into a playoff spot. Then once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen because it’s a one game quarterfinal.”
Although the team was credited with a pair of home wins in their first two games of the season, due to an ineligible Camosun player, they otherwise haven’t picked up a win at their own school. Getting the hometown on their feet, will be a definite goal.
“We haven’t played as well at home as I think we would like, with both of our non-forfeit wins having come on the road, but at the same time, we should be more comfortable and it should be less stressful,” Farrero explained. “It should also be more difficult for our opponents, having to travel while there are no bye weekends really, before any of our opponents come to us.
“It should be an advantage for us, but we have to rise to the occasion because we still have to play really good teams here in our gym.”
So far this season, Capilano is 12-2 and in the top spot in the entire conference. Last weekend, they swept the Columbia Valley Bible College Bearcats with 3-0 and 3-2 wins.
“They’re really a system dependant team and have an extremely strong setter,” Farrero explained, referring to third-year Abbotsford product, Simon Friesen. “He’s probably the best setter, [and] maybe even the best player in our conference. If they’re passing well and playing good defence, he makes their hitters look really, really good, and [then] the hitters play quite well within their system.
“They’ve won a lot of really tight matches and they’ve found a way to pull through. They’re pretty battle tested, tough and cohesive, so it should be a good challenge for us.”
Leading the Avalanche in recent efforts have been third-year libero Blake Thomson, who is seventh in the PACWEST in digs, as well as sophomore Matt Cespedes, 12th in total offensive stats in the league.
Farrero knows, however, that the team will need to see improvement across the board this semester, if they want to take a serious run at a provincial title.
“I really hope that we’re better at every skill [this semester],” he said. “I think that we’re a lot better in terms of understanding what each player needs, from a team mate’s standpoint, and about our successes [though].
“Some guys have been taking bigger leaps and some guys [have made] smaller improvements, [but] everyone has gotten a lot better. We have to commit to being better and commit to really being good on game day.”
The Av’s first match of the new semester begins at 8:00 p.m on Friday night, following the women’s match at 6:00 p.m. They then have a rematch against Capilano at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. COTR is entering the weekend on a three-match losing skid.