College of the Rockies Avalanche setter Matt Lavery bumps a ball during his ‘player of the game’ performance on Saturday against the Capilano Blues. (Brad McLeod Photo)

COTR Avalanche men show ‘ton of heart’ in winless weekend

Volleyball team drops pair of matches at home to top-ranked Capilano, show no quit in close finale

The College of the Rockies men’s volleyball team left it all on the court over the weekend. Unfortunately, that included a couple of crucial points in the standings.

Playing the team with the best record in the PACWEST, the Avalanche (4-10) just couldn’t find a way to pull off an upset against the Capilano University Blues (14-2). On Friday night, they fell in straight sets and on Saturday afternoon, lost a close 3-2 match.

“We definitely battled [and] played with a ton of heart,” head coach Cisco Farrero said after Saturday’s match. “I’ve got a great group of guys that are always going to bust it and while, obviously, we’re not happy with the result, I’m never going to question our team’s effort.

“We chase balls into the stands, we make blocks when we need it [and] we battle tough.”

On Friday, the Avs made Capilano look very good. Losing the first set 25-15, they managed to challenge the Blues in the second but lost 25-22. In the third, they were handed another 25-15 set and were forced to regroup for the following afternoon.

“We mixed up our line-up a little bit [on Friday], but it didn’t really work well because we didn’t receive the ball well enough to have used some of the changes,” Farrero explained. “We reverted back to something that was a little more familiar to us [on Saturday] and we played with a lot of comfort.

“We set the ball better [and] gave our hitters a better chance, so they made far less errors. Unfortunately, against Capilano you have to make almost none.”

Third-year libero Blake Thomson once again led the Avs and put up an MVP performance defensively, while outside hitter Matt Cespedes had the most kills for a COTR player with five.

With a more recognizable lineup on Saturday, the team kicked off the afternoon with their first set win of the new year. Fighting to a 26-24 victory, the Avs were soon put back on the ropes after dropping the next two both by 25-17 scores.

Continuing to show tremendous character, the COTR boys clawed their way to an entertaining 26-24 win in the fourth set, setting up a do-or-die fifth. Despite including some exciting rallies and massive blocks, it was an anti-climactic final point that led to a Capilano victory as Alex Avery hit the net on a serve to end the evening 15-12.

“We missed 4 serves [in the fifth set] and that’s going to get you every time,” Farrero said. “Maybe we were a little nervous, but we didn’t execute to the level that we had in the fourth set.

“Capilano is really good [and] a little bit of our execution failed us today in the sets we didn’t win.”

Setter Matt Lavery, the team’s only Cranbrook local, came off the bench to earn ‘Player of the Game’ honours for the Avs. He had 20 assists, two kills and two digs in his best showing of the season.

Cespedes, meanwhile, had a team-leading 16 kills and Thomson had seven digs.

“[Lavery] gave us a really good spark and his location setting the ball was really good,” Farrero said. “I think Blake had another awesome weekend [too]. He could have won player of the game both matches probably. Matt Cespedes, Zach James and Kyle Butchart were all pretty good [on Saturday] as well.”

With the pair of losses, the Avalanche remain in the sixth and final playoff position in the conference. They host the seventh-place Columbia Bible College Bearcats (2-14) next weekend. With six of seven teams making the provincial tournament at the end of February, it will be a crucial match for COTR.

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