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Straight Sets: Men’s Volleyball Takes Gold At Western Canadians With Perfect Weekend

Back to back trips out west have seen Men's Volleyball fall just short of gold the past two seasons. Being called "Finalists" makes for a long journey home, especially when you are returning to snow, term papers and final exams.

It was third time's a charm this year in Swift Current though. CMU got it done in style too, taking just twelve sets to win six best of three matches en route to their first Western Canadian College Open Championship.

While an undefeated weekend sounds like smooth sailing on paper, there were a fair share of obstacles to overcome. What you won't see on the stats sheet or the scoreboard are the four keys to victory that led to a new neighbour in the trophy cabinet.

Adjustments

Playing unknown teams with unknown tendencies, most matches began with shaky starts. On day one, Coach Don Dulder used the first portion of each match to create a scouting report. At times, he cycled three different defenses throughout the rotation to adapt to unconventional offenses, and had the Blazers back on top with time to spare. Improved tip coverage and blocking schemes pushed them past Prairie and Saskatoon to a 2-0 start.

Morning Ball

When you get to the gym before the sun rises on Saturday morning, it’s hard to bring the same intensity you had on Friday night. As Coach Dulder noted, “Morning ball is all about errors. If you put the ball in play, the other guys will do the work for you.” Dulder was right, and being on the better end of a 42-20 margin of unforced errors over four sets secured top spot in the round robin, and a bye to the semi-final.

Target on Their Backs

Teams that enter a tournament carrying the #1 seed always have a target on their back and when a #1 seed doubles the score of their opponent in the opening set, the target grows. Third-year setter Jason Friesen commented on the challenge of being a heavy favourite. “It’s a tough position to be in because you know everybody is going to get up for your game.” After being blown out on Friday, the Prairie Pilots bounced back in the semi.

Friesen added, “[We] got off to a slow start against them in the playoffs… it was obvious how pumped Prairie was, and they really carried a mentality of having nothing to lose. But for us, it was all about sticking to our game, and trusting that if we did that, we would be fine. The fact that we did that all tournament was a big step for our team.”

Playing to WIN

The gold medal match saw back and forth action that kept the Millar Edge level with CMU at the midway point of each set. The difference was how each side responded to pressure. When Millar needed a kill, they became predictable. When the CMU middles blocked, Millar began to adjust to tip-attacks and when that happened, the CMU back row were ready and on form. The seamless transition to attack in the 6-2 of Friesen and rookie Jacob Janzen, saw the Blazers pull away at the end. Kill after kill, with authority.

A second set score of 25-17 was the exclamation point on a weekend that brought Men's Volleyball their first taste of gold in recent years, and momentum to carry them through to the new year and January 12th, when they hit Route 90 for another meeting with the Red River Rebels.

by Thomas Friesen

Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference Northern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association