Photo and Story Credit: Brad McLeod - Cranbrook Townsman
The College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball program is on Vancouver Island for the weekend, playing four matches in four days.
The swing begins on Thursday with back-to-back matches against the Camosun College Chargers and continues on Friday with another two-game series with the Vancouver Island University Mariners.
It will be the teams' final road trip of the season, until the end of February for the PACWEST Provincial tournament. A spot at that tourney, however, is far from guaranteed for one of the Av's teams.
At 4-12, the Av's men are tied in points with the seventh-place Columbia Bible College Bearcats at the bottom of the league. Only six teams make the B.C. Provincial tournament and after last weekend's CBC sweep of COTR, the Abbotsford team owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Camosun men, who are in fifth-place (6-10) but had four of their losses handed to them through forfeit after starting an ineligible player at the start of the year, beat the Avs twice in October. Both were eventually declared 3-0 COTR wins.
VIU, meanwhile, are in second place in the league (13-3) and routed the College 3-0 and 3-1 in their only meetings during the first semester. The Avalanche men are currently on a seven-game losing streak dating back to mid-November.
During their last action against CBC on Saturday, the team was wallopped in three sets in an effort that head coach Cisco Farrero said was "poorly executed by both teams."
Sophomore outside hitter Matt Cespedes led the way offensively for the Avs with 136 kills in 59 sets, good enough for 13th in the conference. Defensively, meanwhile, libero Blake Thomson has been putting together an MVP season with 122 digs in 59 sets.
The women's team, on the other hand, is in better form than the men and will be looking to carry the momentum after snapping an eight-game losing skid on Saturday against CBC.
Comfortably in a playoff spot with a 5-11 record, the Avs can clinch a Provincial berth with a pair of wins against the 0-16 Chargers.
They will then be in tough, however, against the defending champion Mariners, who are tied for first in the PACWEST at 13-3.
COTR beat the Chargers twice in the first semester at home and split their series with the Mariners. After a challenging end to 2017, the team is close to full-health and has a lineup that should intimidate any opposition in their current form.
While she missed significant time early in the season with injuries, last year's team MVP Alexa Koshman has been sensational in recent efforts. Overall, she has 83 kills and 109 digs in 29 sets. Former Camosun Charger Megan Beckett, meanwhile, has the team lead in kills in 54 sets, fifth on the PACWEST leaderboard.
Libero Megan Clark has also been one of the strongest players at her position, averaging 3.47 digs per set.
Thursday night's road trip openers start at 6:00 p.m. at Camosun College and each subsequent game is at the same time until Sunday's 11:00 a.m game against VIU.