Photo and Story Credit: Brad McLeod - Cranbrook Townsman
Usually, if a team loses 25-8 in the third set of a volleyball match, it's safe to assume that it was the end of a three set sweep.
On Saturday afternoon, however, the College of the Rockies women's volleyball team had it happened in between two set wins, during a match that they nearly won.
Following up a fairly straightforward 3-0 loss to the Capilano University Blues (10-6) on Friday night, the Avalanche (4-10) brought erratic play to the court in a five-set thriller on Saturday afternoon.
"It's the most roller coaster [match] that we've had [this season]," said head coach John Swanson. "We started [pretty] well [and then in the] second set, it was just a completely different energy and we played much better. Then, we come in again in the third and a couple of points don't go in our favour, and we just lose all momentum.
"[We] come back in the fourth [with] high energy and played really well [and then] the fifth set is [just] tough."
The first set on Saturday was 25-16 in Capilano's favour, the second 25-22 for the Avs. After the disastrous third, COTR squeaked out a 25-23 victory. A microcosm of the entire match, the fifth was a comeback that fell just short.
Getting down 14-7 and on the ropes, the team's afternoon didn't end until it was 15-11 and they managed to strike some fear in their opponents.
"[The fifth is always] a short set and you've got to play as clean as possible," Swanson said. "I'm so proud of the ladies for how they battled back. We never quit and that shows a lot of heart, so I'm proud of the ladies. We just need to make them earn those plays and earn the set, because it just goes by so quickly."
Alexa Koshman, who returned from an injury that kept her out of the majority of the first semester over the weekend, led her team both offensively and defensively during the match. She had 18 digs and 15 kills.
On Friday, she was also a force with eight kills and 11 digs in a tough outing wherein COTR lost 25-18, 25-19 and 25-23.
"I don't know if we thought the crowd was going to get us through the situation [on Friday], but Capilano is a really good team and [we didn't] execute our game plan," Swanson said. "You can't just think energy is [just] going to happen, you have to physically do it."
Earning 'player of the match' honours in that contest was newcomer Abi Horch, a middle blocker from Lethbridge brought in to replace the indefinitely-injured Danielle Warner.
"[She] did great [especially] coming in cold and not knowing the speed of the game," Swanson said. "The learning curve for her is going to go through the roof, but obviously [she's] a very dynamic jumper.
"She's just really starting to [show] where she can be. We'll continue to work with her and we're going to evolve into other kinds of sets that we can give her, but I thought she played fantastic."
Horch had four kills and a block on Friday and followed it up four kills, four blocks and four digs on Saturday.
While Swanson was happy with the steady improvement his team showed over their first two matches of the second semester, he knows that the team is still a work in progress.
"[I was] surprised [with] the lack of energy that we had in a lot of our play," he said. "We have a lot of skilled players, obviously, so it's just going to come down to defensive coverage, [and] who's going to make those digs and those plays.
"We rolled different players through [on Saturday] and we're still searching for [a group of] six who want to be out there, [and] who can consistently get that job done."
Currently in sixth-place out of seven teams in the PACWEST, the Avs host the fifth-place Columbia Valley Bearcats (6-10) next weekend. While the team is eight points ahead of the bottom-feeding Camosun Chargers (0-14) in the race for the final playoff spot, a win should be a huge focus for COTR.
"We're going to have to key on [CBC] and have some discipline [in our] position, blocking and reading," Swanson explained. "It's going to be another tough match."