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Men’s Volleyball Titans Clash In Early Season Battle For First Place

It is certainly a surprise to see them at the top, but the perrenial basement dwellers of MCAC Men's Volleyball have clawed their way up the 2018-19 standings to become top dogs (or cats), for at least for the time being. Head coach Joel Small has been chipping away at improving his squad's technical abilities and now through great recruiting in the past offseason, the ACC Cougars sit in first place after two weekends of action with a conference-leading record that includes 3 wins.

A big piece to the puzzle for the Cougars are the additions of 6'4 middle Paycen Warkentin from Gladstone, Manitoba and former Brandon Bobcats red-shirt Will Hatherly, a native of Flin Flon. A physical 6'6 left side, Hatherley unleashed 20 kills last weekend in a series sweep over Red River College and is the talk of the conference in the early season.

"They are a very improved team," said CMU boss Don Dulder. "Both Warkentin and Hatherly are standout players, incidently two players that we had also be working on bringing into our program in their graduating years. We will need to focus on both of them and not take the team lightly entering this series."

The Blazers are coming off a sweep of USB in their opening weekend of the season followed by a most recent weekend "bye". The respite was incredibly timely for fourth-year opposite hitter John Nieckarz who was issued off the court midway through the first set of CMU's season opening win over Les Rouges, with soreness in his calf. If able to get back into the rotation this weekend, Nieckarz will be a weapon that Dulder can ulitize to give his team an added boost.

"We hope to see John back in the rotation at some point this weekend," added Dulder. "His attacking and blocking from right side are very good and obviously his powerful jump serve is an extra weapon for us. He was playing the best ball of his career before this little set back and I think he'll be right back to where he left off when he is ready to return."

Seeing more sets in Nieckarz's absence, Carter Hofer took the opportunity and ran with it in CMU's opening sweep of Les Rouges. The second-year power pounded 21 kills in 59 attempts for an attack average of 27% and added 13 digs over 8 sets played. Strong numbers that the Winman and Linden Christian school product wants to continue to build on against the Cougars this weekend. 

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