Photo and Story Credit: Brad McLeod - Cranbrook Townsman
It was pure elation and massive frustration for the Avs women in a roller coaster weekend against the VIU Mariners.
Although the College of the Rockies volleyball team knew that VIU would be a challenge, the chance to play in front of their home crowd gave them life on Friday evening. The Mariners were a perfect 6-0 before arriving at COTR, but the 3-3 Avalanche were undefeated in two matches in Cranbrook.
Bringing their A-game on Friday, the crowd pushed the team to a 3-1 victory. Unfortunately, after a key injury and a decline in energy, the Avs lost the rematch 3-0 on Saturday.
"I think we battled [on Friday] and what's disappointing is that we didn't push ourselves individually in aspects of the game to be successful [on Saturday]," said head coach John Swanson. "Players went through the motions and some players have to learn quickly that to be successful is hard work.
"VIU had passion and we didn't match that."
Kicking off the weekend, however, the Avs displayed impressive resiliency it their first match against VIU. Boosted by the return of outside hitter Alexa Koshman, who missed the previous four games with a foot injury, the entire team came out swinging.
In the first set, the team hung on for at 25-22 victory before losing 25-14 in the second. Rallying in the third, the Avs squeaked out a 26-24 win and then put a nail in the coffin with 25-21 fourth.
"We attacked very well [and] Megan Beckett was tremendous," Swanson said of the win. "VIU wasn't as sharp. Usually the first day, the visiting team is not quite as sharp and the second day they are."
Despite the emotional win, which pushed their home winning streak to three and handed VIU their first loss of the year on any court, the night also ended with a huge blow.
In the third set, after putting up 10 digs and nine kills, Koshman re-injured her foot and was sidelined for the rest of the weekend.
"Alexa's energy is invaluable for a team and that's going to be a challenge that we're going to have when she's injured and can't be on the floor," Swanson said. "Somebody else has to step up and be that leader."
Without their star hitter, the Avs were a very different team on Saturday afternoon.
Dramatically outplaying COTR, the Mariners started with a 25-15 win and then piled on a 25-19 and 25-20 matches to give the weekend an abrupt end.
"VIU dominated us at the net," Swanson said. "They were blocking and we weren't. It's that simple. Our serve-receive was okay, but they blocked us and we were not nearly effective enough along the net.
"If we continue to not put the effort into blocking, we will be a very average team."
According to Swanson, while splitting a series with a team of the calibre of VIU is a good result, it was difficult to feel satisfied with the effort level that ended the weekend.
"I think that we didn't play with the intensity necessary and that frustrates me as a coach," he explained. We're such a young team [though] and we have to learn.
"This will be another learning curve that we have to go through, understanding that a team is going to be a lot better [on day two], certainly a strong team like that and we have to match that intensity."
The Avs will have little time to rest and could still be without Koshman and sophomore middle blocker Danielle Warner — who was sidelined all weekend with a hip injury — when they head out on the road on Thursday.
The team will play four straight games on the other side of the province with back-to-back matches against the Columbia Bible College Bearcats and the University of Fraser Valley Cascades.
The Avalanche's .500 record has them in fourth place in the PACWEST, while VIU remains in second, UFV (5-3) stands in third and CBC (0-8) is in seventh.