The College of the Rockies Avalanche women’s volleyball team hit the court for its first action of the year this past weekend, hosting the Rumble in the Rockies pre-season tournament in Cranbrook.
While the end results might not seem promising with the Avs finishing the weekend fourth out of the four teams in attendance, head coach Andrew Zurrin was happy with what he saw from his young squad.
“This group is tough on themselves and they should be proud of what they achieved on the weekend,” Zurrin said.
Putting forth a roster featuring nine rookies, the Avs bench boss relished the opportunity to immerse his newcomers in their first taste of college volleyball. That’s exactly what he did this past weekend.
“The rookies stepped up and played some phenomenal points,” Zurrin said. “The team got better [over the course of the weekend] and my bench is deep.
“I’ve got four middles. I can throw anyone on the court. I’ve got five left sides that can also play right side. [Those are] great options I’m going to have all year long.”
The Avs closed out their weekend with an electrifying tilt against the Ambrose University Lions Saturday afternoon. The Lions came out with a five-set victory (21-25, 25-18, 31-29, 25-14, 7-15) but not without having to battle the Avs in a back-and-forth affair.
After splitting the first two sets, the Avalanche and Lions went back and forth in the third game before Ambrose University strung together two consecutive points to grab a 31-29 victory. The win garnered enough momentum for the Lions, who easily dispatched the Avs 25-14 in the fourth set. Zurrin’s Avs won the final set 15-7.
The Avs opened the weekend Friday against the Lethbridge College Kodiaks, falling to the visitors in five sets (25-22, 15-25, 24-26, 25-19, 12-15). The two teams split the first four sets before Lethbridge edged College of the Rockies in the fifth and deciding set.
“The rookies were a little scared [Friday], they didn’t even want to play the first game,” Zurrin said.
“But the next match [against Ambrose University] we looked great…With two new rookie setters, we got used to running the offence we’re supposed to instead of just a generic high-school offense. That’s what it looked like in the first match [against Lethbridge College].”
Friday evening, the Avs earned their only victory over the weekend, getting past Ambrose University 4-1 (21-25, 27-25, 25-21, 26-24, 15-11). Saturday morning, the SAIT Trojans handed the Avs a five-set defeat (13-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-27, 15-9), sending the hosts to the third-place playoff.
The Lethbridge College Kodiaks edged the SAIT Trojans for first place, taking the tournament title in five sets.
With Rumble in the Rockies in the books, Zurrin and his squad will use the coming week to prepare for the iHotel Wild Rose Classic, which gets underway Oct. 3 in Red Deer, Alta.
The 12-team tournament will pit the Avs in a pool with Medicine Hat College and Red Deer College. The Avalanche open the weekend Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. when they face Red Deer College. Round-robin play concludes Oct. 4 at 9:30 a.m. when the Avalanche go head-to-head with Medicine Hat College.
“It’s like regular season where you have a tournament, you need to fix things, and then you have another tournament,” Zurrin said. “You did something not great on a weekend, you need to fix it in four days of practice and then you play again.”
All teams advance from round-robin action into the playoff draw, guaranteeing all clubs a minimum of three games over the weekend.
Competing in the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST), the Avalanche finished outside the top six in the province and missed out on the 2014 volleyball championships last season.
PACWEST play begins Oct. 23 when the Avalanche travel to the Lower Mainland to face the Columbia Bible College Bearcats.