Story and photo credit by Brad Mcleod - Cranbrook Daily Townsman
Last week was rough on the College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball program. Although the men's team picked up their first win of 2017 against Douglas College, it was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal road trip.
A combined 1-7 record against Douglas and Capilano University was a setback for the Avs, there's no doubt about it, but a home series against the bottom feeders of the PACWEST should provide just the bounce back they need.
This weekend both Avs teams play a two-match home series against the Columbia Bible College Bearcats. The women's CBC team is in seventh place in the league with a 3-17 record, while the men are also in last and winless through 20 games.
Despite their disappointing records, the COTR coaches are adamant that the Bearcats can not be taken lightly.
"You would think that since CBC is 0-20 that they're a terrible team but they really aren't," said men's coach Herb Tepper on Tuesday. "They are generally very competitive with all teams in the league. They've gone to five sets a lot of times, so we certainly can't take them for granted."
The Avs men have had a tough time in 2017 so far, going 1-7 after ending the first semester as a .500 team. During their away matches against the Bearcats, the Avs won both times with 3-0 and 3-1 victories in late November.
"We need to come out in a very competitive manner to beat them," Tepper said, adding that while their final four home matches of the season aren't 'the end of the world', they do mean a lot. "It's super important for us to compete over the next couple of weekends, to go into the provincials with confidence.
"You rarely get confidence by losing."
The Avs men are already assured a playoff spot and the remaining games will simply decide what spot they land.
On the women's side, while head coach John Swanson was encouraged by what he saw from his team at the end of their trip, saying that they deserved to win their last match to Capilano, he also knows how crucial picking up wins against CBC is.
"Despite CBC's record, mathematically they are not out of the playoffs so we have to take care of our home court," Swanson said. "Losing all four on the road trip was tough but I think in at least half of the matches we were right there.
"We're going to challenge the ladies to not take anything for granted, not look at their record and think that this will be easy."
Both of the Avs November matches against the Bearcats were very competitive with each going to five sets and CBC and COTR split the series. In the lead up to the matches, the team knows what they need to work on.
"We focused a lot on blocking [in practice this week]," Swanson said. "They have two good power hitters so we'll have to be very good at our outside blocking and defending."
Swanson also said that they hope to be better when it comes to handling hard serves.
"One of our players [suggested] that in some of our drills we should work on having harder, more dynamic serving," he said. "She made a good point, there are some players on other teams that really [do that] and we're maybe not at a point where we can handle them well enough."
The Avs women are at 7-13 and tied for fourth place with the 7-13 UFV Cascades and the 7-11 Camosun Chargers. Wins against CBC would go a long way not only in assuring the Bearcats don't overtake COTR but that the Avs get the best playoff position they can get.
The weekend matches kick off at 6 p.m. on Friday with the women's match, followed by the men at 8 p.m. The teams play again at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
The Avs close out their regular season the following weekend with a pair of home matches against the Cascades.