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COTR Avalanche winless against Douglas in penultimate weekend

Men’s and women’s volleyball teams suffer more losses at home as regular season winds down

The women’s Avalanche team came close on Saturday afternoon, but it just wasn’t a winning weekend in Cranbrook.

Hosting the Douglas College Royals on Friday and Saturday, the College of the Rockies volleyball program had a tough time keeping up, and only came close to a victory in one of four matches.

With the Kootenay Ice dropping a pair of 5-3 hockey games just down the street at Western Financial Place, the women’s Avs lost 3-0 and then recovered slightly the next day with a five-set defeat, while the men continued their set-win drought with back-to-back 3-0 losses.

According to the women’s head coach, John Swanson, despite the outcomes, his team showed encouraging signs with the season winding down.

“Even losing three straight [on Friday], I thought we competed really well,” he told the Townsman after Saturday’s game. “We just played up to 20 points and then had trouble finishing [and] we played very well [on Saturday too]. We just couldn’t get over that hump.”

On Friday, the women lost the first set 25-21, then the second 25-20, and had their night end early with a 25-21 third. The following afternoon, they came out with a lot of energy and won 25-17, before blowing a late lead in the second and losing 26-24.

In the third set, the Avs had a setback and fell 25-16, but rallied for a huge 25-23 fourth set victory to set up a do-or-die fifth. Spotting the Royals a 4-0 lead right away, COTR fell 15-10 and earned their fourth straight match loss.

“I was really proud [of] how we came out in the fourth set [after being] flat in the third,” Swanson said. “Coming out and playing well in the fourth, I was very encouraged [by that]. It was [a] tough [ending though]. Those are the kinds of things we need to continue to develop, to mature, and to learn and grow from.”

Ending the weekend with a record of 6-16, the COTR women are locked in the sixth and final PACWEST playoff spot. While some wins would have been nice for their confidence, Swanson is hopeful that his group will still peak for the Provincial tournament.

“We blocked well. We really defended the net well, and that’s something we’ve worked on for probably a good three weeks,” the coach said. Offensively, we attacked really well too, finding their hands and all those kinds of things.

“[A] big difference was that Alexa [Koshman] was playing libero for us, [as well]. She passes and defends so incredibly well. It just keeps us in a lot of rallies, and actually allows us to attack.”

Koshman, the team’s most senior player, who is in her fourth and final season with the Avs, started the year as a power hitter, but moved back to her old role as a defensive specialist in recent weeks. She led the team in digs over the weekend with 34, while Megan Beckett stepped up on the offensive end with a team-leading 32 kills.

Beyond their steady performances, Swanson was impressed with some of the team’s rookies. With 10 first-year players on the Avs roster, the coach knows their impact will be crucial if they are going to have a shot at a championship.

“We’ve got to keep getting better and learn how to win, [because] we have such a young team,” he said. “We just have to keep putting ourselves in [challenging] situations and try to learn from them. We’re hopeful that [due to] these situations, as we kind of peak for Provincials, we’ll be used to that and, hopefully, we’ll get over the hump going forward.”

After their wins over COTR, Douglas College is in first place in the conference with a 17-3 record. The Avs’ final two matches of the season will be against the University of Fraser Valley Cascades at home next weekend.

Currently in third place with a 12-8 record, the Cascades, who are hosting the Provincial tournament, are a likely first round postseason matchup for the Avs.

As the coach of the 2015-16 Avs women’s squad that won Provincial gold as a sixth-seed, Swanson knows that anything is possible now that they have their spot in the show.

“We just have to keep continuing to build and grow and just learn from some of these times and avoid these [negative] runs,” he said. “[We need to see] what we can do individually to make that chance. We’ll talk about it, and try to improve on that going forward.”

As for the men’s side, after another disappointing weekend, they desperately need a match win next weekend to even get into the playoffs.

On a 13-game losing streak, the men haven’t managed a single set win in their past seven outings. Over the weekend against Douglas, the Avs lost 25-17, 25-21 and 25-23 on Friday night, before further dropping out on Saturday with 25-14, 25-15 and 25-14 losses.

Tied at the bottom of the PACWEST with the Columbia Bible College Bearcats with a record of 4-18, but with CBC owning the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Avs need at least one win against UFV this coming weekend.

With a 9-11 record, after being COTR’s last opponent, the Cascades will close out their season against the Bearcats, meaning that even if Avs pull off a win, their fate will not be immediately sealed.

The 2018 PACWEST Volleyball Championships will take place from February 22 to 24 at the University of Fraser Valley gymnasium, while the Avs’ final home matches will be played this Friday night and Saturday afternoon.