Story by Brad McLeod (Cranbrook Daily Townsman)
The College of the Rockies men's and women's volleyball teams knew that opening their season with a four-game road trip on Vancouver Island wouldn't be easy. They were proved absolutely correct.
The women's team went 1-3 against Camosun and Vancouver Island University, while the men came up empty going 0-4. However, despite the high percentage of losses, both coaches saw positive signs in their teams' performances and are not overly concerned with their slow starts at all.
"Ideally we [would've gone] two-and-two, that would've been nice, but to get at least one win on the road is good," said women's coach John Swanson. "It's [always] a tough [trip] when you travel to the Island just because of [the] distance."
Despite the 12-hour bus journey to Camosun College, the women's Avs played very well in their first set of the season defeating the Chargers 27-25 in a very competitive opening match which they ended up losing 3-1.
"[The first one] was kind of a strange match because we came out brilliantly … we were quite dominant in the first set," Swanson said. "[We] give Camosun credit, they came and challenged us and made it very, very close [in the latter stage of] the first set and then we just lost a lot of momentum and [in] the next three sets I think we played quite poorly."
The next night was almost a mirror reverse of the first match. The Avs came out of the gate very slowly with an 11-25 loss before winning the next three matches.
"[In the first set] we were playing timid and not very aggressive and then we had a bit of a team meeting between sets and [I] challenged the ladies again to stay competitive and once we gained some confidence — and improved our passing — we played very well.
"We showed our true colours in the second match against Camosun."
Although on Saturday and Sunday against VIU the Avs lost in straight sets, they remained competitive and got up to over 20 points twice in the six sets, against last year's national champions.
"We had some moments [against VIU] where we were competitive, in the second set [on Sunday] we had ourselves in a good situation, we just had three key errors that really were the difference," Swanson said. "Those are tough situations but as a team, we'll learn from that [and] as long as we can change those outcomes […] that's growth.
"I kind of felt [that on Sunday] if we won that second set we [may have] gained confidence [and] maybe the outcome would've been different."
Although Swanson didn't want to make any excuses, he did admit that the final losses could've been a result of the difficulty of being on the road.
"To the ladies defense, it was the fourth match in four days of intense volleyball and you're not in your own bed and you're eating out [...] I was proud of the ladies for how they battled and stayed strong."
The team was led by a standout performance from right side hitter Mikaela Pushor who had a whopping 36 digs, 39 kills, and 13 blocks over the four matches. Libero Alexa Koshman also played a key role in the victory, picking up a team-leading 36 digs in just three matches. Second-year outside hitter Adriel Goodman was also strong with 27 digs and 31 kills, while playing every set.