Photo and Story Credit: Brad McLeod - Cranbrook Townsman
Despite only winning one of four games on the road, the College of the Rockies men's volleyball team had a huge week in the standings.
After the Camosun Chargers discovered they had unintentionally used an ineligible player during their opening weekend sweep of the Avalanche, they were forced to forfeit both matches.
COTR, therefore, hit the road last Wednesday with four extra points. They then added another pair by going into Columbia Bible College on Thursday and pulling out a big 3-1 win in the first of their final four contests of the semester.
While they couldn't continue their success in a rematch with CBC or two games at the University of Fraser Valley, there were undoubtedly a lot of bright spots.
"Any time you win a game, it's a good thing [but] it was a mix [overall]," said head coach Cisco Farrero. "If we played the way we did against UFV, against CBC, I think we would have won both nights and have come back with two wins [instead of one]."
Against the CBC Bearcats, the team grabbed the first two set victories with 25-21 and 25-20 scores. While their opponent rallied in the third with a 29-27 win, the Avs saw the match through with a final 25-22 dagger.
The second night, despite a 25-23 opening set win, the team lost 25-10, 30-28 and 25-19 to take a step backwards.
"I don't think [we stole one on Thursday], CBC [just] played really poorly," Farrero said. "We were just okay and then on the second day they raised their game and we didn't."
The coach was much happier with the performances against UFV. While on Saturday, the Avs managed to take the Cascades to five matches, they ended with a disappointing 15-5 defeat. On Sunday, even though they only won the third in a 3-1 loss, they were impressive.
"We played maybe our best game of the entire weekend [on Sunday], but just couldn't catch a break," Farrero explained. "UFV played much better [than on Saturday]."
According to Farrero, the team's clear leader in all four matches was starting libero Blake Thomson who earned 32 digs in the CBC series alone.
"Thomson was definitely our best player this weekend," the coach said. "At the libero position, you need to be steady in every single match [and] his service control was good and he took even more balls than normal.
"Other players had an up-and-down weekend, but Blake had our steadiest [performance]."
The coach went on to say that he has high expectations for the third-year player and was pleased to see a veteran lead the charge for his group.
Although the women's Avalanche team has faced significant injuries in the last stretch, the men will be heading into their winter break relatively healthy.
"We're banged up [after] a long semester and we've got some sore legs and some sore shoulders," Farrero said. "I rotated our four outside hitters a bit [in hopes of] keeping them a little fresher. I think it definitely helped, but some guys are pretty sore now that our stretch of six games in nine days is over."
While the team won't play another match until January 12, the coach said that there will be little rest over the break.
"We're still training 13 times [on top of] individual practices before we go on Christmas break and then the guys will be back before New Year's so that they can put in another 10 sessions," he said. "There are a lot of things that we need to get better at, definitely a lot of ball control related things.
"We [also] still have to serve and pass better [and] our offensive players need more shots in their arsenal."
Playing a much more favourable schedule in semester two, the Avs have eight home matches and should be at a higher level after getting their feet wet.
"For all the guys who hadn't played as much in previous seasons and in their career, [now] they've all got 12 games under their belt," Farrero said. "So I think our guys have really figured each other out and so we should be able to play with pretty good cohesion moving forward."
Thanks to the forfeit-points and two wins, COTR exited the first half of the year with a 4-8 record and fifth spot in the PACWEST standings.
The Avs first weekend after the break is a home affair against the Capilano Blues. COTR lost both matches on the road against Capilano in three-set sweeps.