Photo and Story Credit: Brad McLeod - Cranbrook Townsman
Although the Avs won their most recent match, in a five set victory over Douglas College on the road, the victory is not what head coach Cisco Farrero wants the team to remember.
According to the College of the Rockies men's bench boss, his team needs to focus on the details of that match to be successful during their weekend series against the Vancouver Island University Mariners.
"I think the biggest thing isn't necessarily that we won that match — it's the way we won it," Farrero said. "We controlled the first contact and we were just way more offensive, which we need to be. We need to be that offensive, or [even more so], to beat a team like VIU."
The October 29 showdown against the Royals was the team's first win of the season after going 0-5 without a single set victory to start the year. While the night has given the team some confidence, they know that the 4-2 Mariners won't be an easy opponent.
"They're good at every spot [and they have] the returning MVP of the league, Braden Brower, [who is] a pretty special player outside," Farrero said. "They're experienced at almost every spot. They have pretty good setting as well and their coaching staff does a really good job to make sure they're ready for [every match]."
On the Avs side of the court, every player on the roster has improved over the past month and the team is looking to reach another level in their second home weekend.
"I hope [we'll be more comfortable at home this time]," Farrero said. "We were definitely really amped up for our first match, maybe too amped up, and then we forgot about our skills.
"We need to use the home court as an advantage, but not forget that it takes the little things to win."
One player who has upped his game since the start of October is sophomore outside hitter Matt Cespedes. Moving into a starter role this season, the Kelowna product was the Avs top scorer during their recent road trip.
Cespedes led his team in kills in two of the four games in the Lower Mainland and had a personal best of 13 kills in COTR's win.
"I took on a responsibility that is very new for me [during that trip]," Cespedes said. "Coming out of last year, not seeing the court as much and then [becoming a starter], I basically took on the fact that 'I'm here and I need to play.' I thought I did my job [and] it felt pretty good."
Farrero said that a continuation of his strong play is vital to the team's chance of winning.
"Matt is a really dynamic athlete… he's strong physically and really offensive," the coach said. "He's really tough on himself [though], so sometimes he'll let that carry over from one point to the next because he expects himself to be perfect on almost every point.
"He's way better when he can let go of his mistakes… I'm excited for him, but he still needs to work on consistency. He had a good stepping stone in the evolution of his career, but for us to be successful he basically needs to be good every night."
Another player who has had a positive early impact for the Avs, is middle blocker Breno Fabbri. The 6'8 Brazilian has been a big presence on the front court and has 26 kills in 20 sets so far this year.
After a month, he's feeling comfortable being a leader for COTR.
"I've played in a higher level before [so] I think my mission here is to lead my teammates on the court and give them confidence, calm them and help them," Fabbri said. "We've had significant improvement since our first game, so I think we'll be better [against VIU], for sure."
While Cespedes admitted that he had some nerves in the team's opening weekend losses against Capilano, he believes the crowd will be treated to better play against VIU.
"I think we'll be a little more relaxed now that we've had a lot more practice time in our gym," he said. "It won't be as frightening as the big home opener. If we stay relaxed, we'll play well. As soon as we start to get too hyped, bad things start to happen."
According to Farrero, the Avs are keeping their sights on small victories so they don't get overwhelmed by the prospect of two full matches against VIU.
"VIU is too good to worry about what's too far down the road," he said. "We have to battle to win each point and to be honest, they're going to do a lot of really good things against us.
"It won't be easy. We'll have our chances to win both games, but we'll have to execute the first contact, receive to attack [and] we'll also have to serve well to win."
The Avs play their first match of the weekend on Friday at 8:00 p m. following the women's match. They then have a rematch at 1 p.m. on Saturday, after the women's game at 11 a.m.
The pair of back-to-back matches will be the Avs last home contests of the first semester, with the team heading on the road next week to close out the calendar year against Columbia Bible College and the University of Fraser Valley.