There was reason to celebrate on the volleyball court at the College of the Rockies this past weekend.
With a pair of straight-sets sweeps over the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Cascades, the Lady Avs have moved into the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national rankings for the first time in program history.
On the men’s side, the Avalanche snapped a seven-match losing skid with a pair of victories over the Cascades, pulling out of the PACWEST cellar and back into the PACWEST Volleyball Championship picture.
The CCAA announced its weekly national rankings Tuesday morning, with the Lady Avs rolling in at 14th in the country.
“We’re not even close to being at our peak,” said Lady Avs head coach Andrew Zurrin Saturday afternoon. “The rookies, all they do is keep getting better. We can attack even better. They’re adapting well on a game plan.
“My vets can change from point to point. It’s still taking our rookies two or three points to say, ‘Right.’ When we get that and [the rookies] make changes from point to point, other teams aren’t going to stay with us.”
The Lady Avs have cruised to an astounding 7-1 mark since the calendar flipped to 2015 and are 11-9 this season.
The Cascades were the latest PACWEST squad to fall victim to the Lady Avs ascension. Friday night, the Lady Avs trounced the Cascades 25-20, 25-18 and 27-25. Saturday provided more of the same as the Lady Avs maintained momentum, winning three close sets 25-21, 25-23 and 25-20.
“We stayed with our game plan, picked on their weaknesses and this had to be the most consistent weekend for every player on the court,” Zurrin said. “We didn’t have one person that struggled. We could set everybody, attack from every position. We killed [the Cascades] in the middle and again, Kelsey [Thompson] dominated.”
Thompson, the veteran left-side hitter, led the Lady Avs with nine kills and contributed 13 digs Friday night. Saturday, the fourth-year business student and native of Vernon, crushed 20 of her team’s 36 kills.
Apart from moving into the CCAA national rankings, the Lady Avs played leapfrog with the Cascades, moving into fourth place in the PACWEST standings.
Refusing to be shown up by the ladies, the men’s squad took it upon themselves to enact some movement on their side of the PACWEST volleyball standings as well.
With a pair of wins over the Cascades, the Avalanche skipped past the Capilano University Blues into sixth place in the conference.
The Avs broke a seven-match skid, earning their first win of the 2015 portion of the schedule with a 3-1 victory (22-25, 25-15, 25-10, 25-18) Friday night.
“I think they forgot what winning was about,” said Avs head coach Steve Kamps Saturday afternoon. “We’ve played some good matches this half of the year and, unfortunately, just come up a little bit short against Douglas [College] and last weekend against [Columbia Bible College].
“We could see the improvement and just couldn’t find ways to win. It was really nice to find ways to win this weekend [against UFV]. Hats off to the guys. They knew they needed to win. There was pressure on them and they came out, took both matches and played extremely well.”
Saturday afternoon, the Avs harnessed momentum from Friday to earn a straight-sets sweep (28-26, 25-17, 25-23) over the Cascades. The energy in the gymnasium was palpable, as the Avalanche showed a certain swagger that had been hard to find, if not altogether missing from the court in recent weeks.
“We tell them that if they’re playing like individuals, pouting and showing frustration, it just doesn’t work,” Kamps said. “We’ve been nipping that in the bud in practice. If there’s any bad body language, guys are getting thrown out of practice. It’s just not going to happen anymore. We’ve seen what can happen if everybody is feeding off the positive energy that can happen out there. They’re having fun again and when you’re having fun, good things happen.”
Both Avalanche squads wrap up the 2014-15 PACWEST regular season with four matches apiece beginning Thursday and Friday at Vancouver Island University (VIU). From there, the Avalanche visit Camosun College Saturday and Sunday to conclude regular-season action.
“We need to be healthy going into provincials,” Zurrin said. “We want to see how well we do against VIU and Camosun and try to take games off of them. I’d like to see almost all our lineup play, because they all deserve to. They’re all playing so well.
“We may have a chance to sneak into third if we take two straight [matches] off VIU and that’s a nice match-up.”
PACWEST Women’s Volleyball Standings:1) Camosun College (18-2), 36 points; 2) Capilano University (14-6) 28; 3) Vancouver Island University (13-7) 26; 4) College of the Rockies (11-9) 22; 5) University of the Fraser Valley (10-10) 20; 6) Douglas College (4-16) 8; 7) Columbia Bible College (0-20) 0
PACWEST Men’s Volleyball Standings:1) Douglas College (17-3) 34 points; 2) Camosun College (14-6) 28; 3) Vancouver Island University (13-7) 26; 4) Columbia Bible College (11-9) 22; 5) University of the Fraser Valley (6-14) 12; 6) College of the Rockies (5-15) 10; 7) Capilano University (4-16) 8