The Lady Avs celebrate a straight-sets sweep of the VIU Mariners Saturday afternoon at College of the Rockies. Middle Allison Pepper (#11) is joined by Kendra Hainsworth (#12)

Shot across the bow

College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball split weekend festivities with VIU Mariners

Taylor Rocca

You can put it in the win column.

After enduring a winless home-opening weekend against the Camosun College Chargers Nov. 7 and 8, both Avalanche clubs claimed victory against the Vancouver Island University Mariners this past weekend at College of the Rockies.

The men swept the Mariners Friday before being swept in return Saturday. The night and day performance dropped the Avs to 2-6 on the season.

The Lady Avs battled it out in a tough 3-2 defeat Friday, before dominating the Mariners in a straight-sets sweep Saturday, improving to 3-5 for the campaign.

“[Friday] we were firing on all cylinders and we had six guys, seven guys with the libero, show up [Friday],” said Avs coach Steve Kamps Saturday afternoon. “[Saturday] it was the exact opposite. We had nobody that stepped up to the plate.”

After shoring up the service line with a strong performance Friday, the Avs were let down by their serves Saturday afternoon. It’s an area of the game that has proved an early Achilles’ heel for the squad.

Saturday’s opening set suggested folks in attendance were in for an entertaining match, as the Mariners narrowly edged the Avs 25-23 to kick off the afternoon.

Unfortunately for the hosts, it was all downhill and all VIU from there.

The Mariners took a 25-21 victory in the second set before rolling over a listless Avs squad 25-18 in the third, claiming the straight-sets sweep and ensuring a split of the weekend festivities.

“Looking back at [Friday], we did some very good things,” Kamps added. “We followed the game plan and played the way we could. We addressed serving during the week and Friday night we played very well, served the ball tough and we saw what that can do. As a result, we swept the team that’s second in the conference and ranked in the top 10 in Canada.

“I was hoping the guys would carry that momentum and believe in themselves [Saturday], but we came out and completely just thought they were going to hand us the match again. We weren’t ready to put on our hardhats and work. That’s where I’m frustrated right now. We’re flat and unemotional.”

Outside hitter Curtis Stockton continued to carry the offence for the Avs over the weekend, blasting 28 kills over the two contests. Defensively, libero Mitch Parnham continued his steady performance with 19 digs.

Despite the frustrating loss Saturday, beating the fifth-ranked team (as of Nov. 11) in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) leaves plenty for Kamps and the Avs to build on moving forward.

“At least we’ve had a taste now of what it feels like to play well,” Kamps said. “When that all happens and everything comes together, we are a very good team. At least we have a taste of that now and I don’t think we did before.

“It’s unfortunate the guys didn’t believe [in themselves Saturday] for whatever reason. It’s a struggle. I don’t have the answer right now. It’s back to the basics of just working hard. I thought we were outworked in our gym [Saturday] and I don’t like that either. We’ll address hard work again [this week].”

While there’s room for improvement on the men’s side of the court, Lady Avs head coach Andrew Zurrin is pleased with the trajectory his team is on following a weekend split with the Mariners.

“They got over that little hump,” Zurrin said. “Instead of being tentative, they followed a game plan where we were aggressive. They didn’t let the little things bother them and they swung hard right till the end. To get past that mental thing is huge going forward.”

After losing a tightly-contested match Friday night, the Lady Avs dominated the CCAA’s ninth-ranked Mariners Saturday afternoon en route to a 3-0 sweep of the visitors.

“We dominated in the middle, scored at will in the middle,” Zurrin said Saturday afternoon. “I think we probably scored at a 90-per-cent clip with both middles [Saturday]. Unheard of in volleyball.

“This time, [the girls] go from a game they should have won [Friday] in five [sets] to a complete domination of the same team and sweep them in three [sets].”

The Lady Avs grabbed a 25-21 victory in the second set Saturday, before rolling to a decisive 25-17 win in the third and final set.

Left side Kelsey Thompson turned in her usual balanced performance with 22 digs and 23 kills over the weekend. After being named Avalanche Athlete of the Week for her performance against Camosun College, libero Alexa Koshman followed up with another stellar weekend, getting in 27 digs to pace the defense.

Middle Madison Hudy, a second-year from Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary, was injured Friday night, opening an opportunity for Corissa Mildenburger Saturday afternoon. The extent of Hudy’s injury is not yet known, though she was wearing a walking cast Saturday.

Mildenburger, a second-year from Elkford, stepped into the fray Saturday, rattling off 11 kills and five digs.

“It was like the missing piece to the puzzle,” Zurrin said. “We inserted Corissa into the right side and it just changed the dynamic of our team. We became aggressive. We’re a good defensive team; we became even better.”

The weekend split pushed the Lady Avs to 3-5 as they maintained their fourth-place foothold in the PACWEST standings. The undefeated Camosun College Chargers lead PACWEST with an unblemished 8-0 record.

On the men’s court, the Avs remain sixth in PACWEST at 2-6. The fifth-place Columbia Bible College Bearcats (3-7) are two points ahead of the Avs who hold two games in hand. The seventh-place Capilano University Blues (1-7) broke the goose-egg in their win column, climbing to within a win of the Avs.

Both Avs squads are off in Week 6 of the PACWEST volleyball season before returning to action in Week 7 when they visit Douglas College (Nov. 27 and 28) and Capilano University (Nov. 29 and 30) to close out the 2014 portion of the slate.

Next home action for the Avs comes Jan. 16 and 17, 2015, when Douglas College visits College of the Rockies.

PACWEST Women’s Standings:

1) Camosun College (8-0); 2) Capilano University (7-1); 3) University of the Fraser Valley (7-3); 4) College of the Rockies (3-5); 5) Douglas College (3-5); 6) Vancouver Island University (2-6); 7) Columbia Bible College (0-10)

PACWEST Men’s Standings:

1) Douglas College (7-1); 2) Vancouver Island University (6-2); 3) University of the Fraser Valley (6-4); 4) Camosun College (5-3); 5) Columbia Bible College (3-7); 6) College of the Rockies (2-6); 7) Capilano University (1-7)

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