The College of the Rockies women’s volleyball team are headed north this weekend to play in four preseason games at the Wild Rose Classic in Red Deer, Alberta.
The Avalanche, who kick off the regular season on October 13, will take on the Ambrose Lions and the Lethbridge College Kodiaks on Friday, September 30, before closing out their preseason against Red Deer and Augustana on Saturday.
Coach John Swanson is excited for the tournament and thinks that it will be a good chance to see what this year’s team is made of, and potentially get a preview of what’s to come if they can repeat as conference champions.
“The Red Deer tournament is good for us because, unlike teams that we play in the PACWest, these teams are from the ACAC [so] we’ll get a look and see what kind of talent they have if we are fortunate [enough] to get back into nationals,” Swanson said. “But the other thing too is, it allows us to play some teams that we wouldn’t normally play […] which is kind of nice because when you play the same team over and over can get a bit stale.”
Swanson said that the tournament will provide quality competition and that they will be squaring off against some very strong teams, which should get them ready for the regular season.
Unlike their scrimmage play so far, where the Avs rotated their entire roster and lost a number of games to Ambrose on September 8 and 9, Swanson said that starters should get the majority of the playing time for both his team and on the opposing sides at the Wild Rose Classic. The team on the court this weekend will be close to what they’ll look like in the regular season.
“It’s not that we didn’t play well [against Ambrose, three weeks ago], [it’s just that] we had everyone play equal time and I think that [Ambrose] were a little more experienced and had probably had a little bit more practice time,” he said. “It was an opportunity to get a lot of players playing and get familiar [and comfortable] with each other.
“[In] Red Deer, I will certainly have higher expectations of how we perform […] I’m expecting that our team will perform at a higher level — that doesn’t necessarily mean wins or losses — but as long as we’re progressing, that’s all I can ask [for] as a coach.”
Despite coming off a season in which they dominated their competition on route to winning the school’s first PACwest championship, Swanson doesn’t envision his team getting complacent this year.
“I don’t think we’re going to have over-confidence, I think we’re going to be in a situation where we still have to work hard,” Swanson said. “[We still have to] do all the little things to be successful without just showing up on a court and beating everybody.”
This year’s team will be a mix of last year’s championship squad and new players. There are eight women returning from the 2015-16 team and also nine new recruits. The team, however only travels with 14 players.
Swanson said he is very pleased with both the new additions and the veterans, and believes that they are already meshing well together.
“Because we had success last year, [the new players] buy in pretty quickly [to] what work ethic is needed and [the program’s] expectations,” he said. “We want them to enjoy it but we also want them to be playing at high level and challenge themselves.”
The Avs first game of the tournament starts at 4:30pm on Friday in Red Deer, and the last is set for 5:00pm on Saturday. They open their regular season on the road at Camosun where they play the Chargers on October 13 and 14.They then head to Vancouver Island University on October 15 and 16, before finally returning for their home opener on Friday, October 28 where they’ll host Douglas College.