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COTR Avalanche women manage single win on Island road trip

COTR Avalanche women manage single win on Island road trip

Photo and Story credit: Brad McLeod - Cranbrook Townsman

The College of the Rockies Avalanche women's volleyball team know a little something about breaking a losing streak.

The match before heading out on their final road trip of the season, the Avs (6-14) beat the Columbia Bible College Bearcats (7-13) to snap an eight-game skid.

Unfortunately, on Thursday at Camosun College, they were on the other side of a 16-game losing streak coming to an end. Stunned 3-0 by the struggling Chargers (1-17), it was a tough weekend for the Avs on Vancouver Island.

Following the loss to the league's bottom feeders, the team rallied the next day to beat them in five sets, but then fell twice on Saturday and Sunday to the Vancouver Island University Mariners (15-3).

"I think we played well for moments [during each] match, but [we] really struggled to sustain consistency in our play," head coach John Swanson told the Townsman on Monday morning. "Unnecessary errors at critical moments cost us the opportunity to prolong matches."

In the first match against the winless Chargers, COTR suffered from adversity and unforced poor play. With Camosun practically needing to win every single remaining game this season to have a shot at the playoffs, Swanson said that they came with considerable energy.

The Avs lost 25-20 in the first, then lost setter Janine Harach to an injury midway through the second, which ended as a 26-24 loss. In the third, they fell apart further for a 25-16 ending.

"We knew Camosun would be very ready as this was their opportunity to get back into a possible playoff spot," Swanson said. "We served very poorly throughout the entire match and missed seven serves alone in the second set. Katie Friesen came in and played [setter] very well under tough conditions.

"After losing the second set we never regained any momentum."

The next day, Swanson changed up his lineup and the team responded with a much more desperate effort.

Squeaking out a 26-24 first set win, the Avs lost 25-23 in the second, rallied for a 25-22 win and then lost 22-25 in the fourth. Forcing the always unpredictable fifth, Camosun wasn't able to hang in with COTR and lost 15-8.

"We knew [heading in that] we had some pressure on us to keep Camosun from gaining ground for the last playoff spot," Swanson said. "[Rookie outside hitter] Taylor Whittall started for us and played very well. Her ability to attack effectively along with Megan Beckett, Mikaela Pusher, Randi Dalquist and Abigail Horch were key to our success.

"Ashley Huberts [also] continued to be a great impact coming in for defensive and serve receive purposes. Alexa Koshman, meanwhile, played libero and had an outstanding 32 digs."

Although Swanson admitted that the team still struggled during the match, he was proud of the group's effort and their play during the crucial final set.

Heading up north to Nanaimo for a pair of matches against the VIU Mariners, the Avs didn't have a great time. During the Saturday match, they lost 25-20, 25-17 and 25-21 to wrap up an early night. On Sunday, it got even tougher with a pair of 25-13 losses and a final third-set 25-16 thumping.

"VIU is a very experienced, disciplined team [and] we were unable to match their physical strength along the net and struggled in serve-receive," Swanson said "When we could not put pressure on them, we had a tough time stopping their attack."

With only four matches remaining in the regular season, the Avs have little time to prepare for the Provincial tournament in Abbotsford near the end of February. Having only won two matches, both in five sets, over their past 13, the team will be in desperate need to gain confidence in their final two weekends.

Luckily for them, both will be played on their home court at the College of the Rockies gymnasium in Cranbrook.

This upcoming Friday and Saturday, the Avs host the Douglas College Royals, who swept them in New Westminster back in late October.

"We'll need to work on getting setting reps and establishing continuity with our hitters [in practice] and [also] understand that defence wins," Swanson said. "Douglas will be another very tough team. They are similar to VIU in that they are very athletic and experienced.

"We'll have to match their physical play and keep up our intensity."

The Avalanche women are currently in sixth-place in the conference. They are five wins ahead of Camosun, but only one win behind the CBC Bearcats for fifth.

Friday night's game at the COTR gymnasium starts at 6 p.m. with the men's match following them at 8 p.m. The Avs then play at 1 p.m. on Saturday, before ending their season against the University of Fraser Valley Cascades the following weekend.