By Mark Janzen, TWU
September 12, 2012, Langley, BC (ISN) – When the Trinity Western University men’s volleyball team steps onto the Langley Events Centre court this September for the U-23 Pan American Cup, there will be nerves. After all, representing Canada – as the two-time defending CIS champion Spartans will do at this inaugural U-23 event, which runs Sept. 25-30 – is no casual task.
There might even be, or most certainly will be, some pre-game jitters. And why not? Donning a maple leaf in any international event always comes with an inherent responsibility and this tournament will be no different.
However, fortunately, for many players on this Spartans side, representing Team Canada on a variety of levels – including in 2011, when the Spartans as a team played as Canada’s entry in the FIVB Club World Championship in Qatar – is nothing new. And the nerves that accompany playing with a maple leaf on ones chest is indeed something they know all about and, therefore, how to deal with.
As Trinity Western prepares to take on the likes of Argentina, Brazil, Dominicana, Mexico and Venezuela, one would have to argue that, given their past two years of both national championship and international experience, there isn’t a team in Canada better suited to tackle this challenge.
Of the 15 Spartans vying for a spot on the 12-player roster that will suit up for Canada’s opening match against Mexico, 10 have international experience. And for a team that will likely be the underdog in most of their matches, that familiarity is simply invaluable.
“I think it’s huge to have so many players who have played in big games both domestically and abroad,” said Spartans head coach Ben Josephson, who also has coaching experience internationally having been an assistant coach with Canada at the 2011 FISU Games and, of course, coaching Trinity Western in Qatar. “It is intimidating wearing that jersey for the first time. But I think we’ll be a lot more comfortable given that a lot of the guys have experience wearing the Canadian colours.”
With Dan Jansen Van Doorn (Langley, B.C.) and Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton) having played with the Senior B team this summer, Tyler Koslowsky (Abbotsford, B.C) in 2012 and Brad Kufske (Abbotsford, B.C.), Branden Schmidt (Winton, Alta.), Derek Thiessen (Coquitlam, B.C.) and Van Berkel in 2011 playing on the Junior National team, Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.) representing Canada as a beach player and all but Koslowsky, plus Jarrod Offereins (Calgary), John Wiebe (Abbotsford, B.C.) and
Micah Jansen Van Doorn (Langley, B.C.) with the Spartans as Team Canada in Qatar, Trinity Western is something of a who’s who of upper-echelon Canadian talent. And no doubt a group experienced beyond its years.
“It’s tremendous to have so many guys with experience,” Dan Jansen Van Doorn said. “We’ve been involved in a lot of big matches with a ton of fans and a lot on the line and I think that will help a lot when it comes to this tournament.”
And with the glitz, glamour and pageantry that comes with a typical international match, under the big lights Trinity Western will have a comfort level that will go a long ways to earning success on the court.
“I know I’ll be a lot more comfortable if I get on the floor to play for Canada again and wear the Canadian flag,” said Koslowsky, who helped Canada to a second place finish at the 2012 NORCECA U-21 Continental Championship. “I won’t be surprised to look down at my jersey and see the maple leaf. I won’t be afraid and when you’re comfortable, you always play better.”
And while the whole show and spectacle of an international volleyball event is one thing to be prepared for, the opposition is another whole element that is certainly best dealt with through experience. In Canada West action, most teams play a similar brand. Beyond Canada’s borders, at times, it can be a different style altogether.
“They’ve learned how some of these teams play different styles and you have to just stay true to yourselves and your own systems,” Josephson said. “They’ve been through that so much that I don’t think they’ll get too rattled.”
Jansen Van Doorn added: “Sure, at times, it’s a different ball game, at least in terms of all the hype and the fact you’re playing against a team that is speaking another language, but at the end of the day it’s the same game. You still need to win three sets to 25. It’s the same ball. It’s still bump, set, spike.”
And that’s what the Spartans are banking on: familiarity.
The Spartans know how to play as Spartans. Many of the Spartans know how to play as Team Canada. And with that, Josephson is hoping the amalgamation of it all will be the perfect formula to not only compete but succeed while wearing the maple leaf.
“I’m hoping the home environment and being with their teammates will allow us to stay true to our team identity, which is one of the strengths of our group,” Josephson said. “But then hopefully we can be more professional and raise our level by being at an international event. If we can capitalize on both, than I think we have a unique opportunity to blend our Spartanhood with our Canadian volleyball experience. And if we can blend the two properly I think we have the potential to be even better than if we were just Team Canada or just Trinity Western.”
And ultimately it’s that concoction that should make any potential pre-game jitters just that. Pre-game, and nothing more.
After opening against Mexico Sept. 25, Canada will play Venezuela Sept. 26, Dominicana Sept. 27, Brazil Sept. 28, Argentina Sept. 29 and a playoff game Sept. 30.
All of Canada’s round robin games start at 8 p.m.
To buy tickets for the U-23 Pan American Volleyball Cup, go to www.langleyeventscentre.com.
About the U-23 Pan American Cup
The U-23 Pan American Cup is a new competition created jointly by the NORCECA (North America, Central America & Caribbean) and the South American Volleyball Confederations, and will feature the top teams from these zones. The event has been developed to provide an additional competitive opportunity for developing national team players who may be on the cusp of making their first appearances with their respective country’s senior level national teams. Athletes must be born in 1990 or later to be eligible to compete.
About Langley Events Centre
The Langley Events Centre (LEC) is a 260,483 square foot state of the art facility, which includes an Arena Bowl, Triple Gymnasium, Banquet Hall and Meeting Spaces all in one. Opened in 2009 with the latest technology, the LEC is home to Trinity Western University Athletics (Basketball, Volleyball and Hockey), the Langley Rivermen of the BC Hockey League, the Langley Thunder of the Western Lacrosse Association and the Langley Junior Thunder of the BC Junior A Lacrosse League. Many organizations call the LEC home including Basketball BC, Langley Sports Medicine Clinic, Tourism Langley, MLA Rich Coleman, the Langley Gymnastics Foundation, RE Mountain Secondary School, and the Willoughby Community Centre. The facility has hosted events such as the 2010 BC Summer Games, 2011 CIS Men’s Volleyball National Championships, the 2011 World Junior A Hockey Challenge, the 2012 World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling, the 2012 TELUS Junior Girls Basketball Provincial Championships, the 2011 and 2012 BC High School Boys’ AAA Basketball Championships, presented by TELUS, and multiple Provincial Gymnastics Championships. The LEC is also proud to be host to the 2012 U-23 Pan American Men’s Volleyball Cup and the 2013 BC AAA Girls Basketball Championships, presented by TELUS. For a complete list of previous and upcoming events, please visit www.langleyeventscentre.com
Tickets for the 2012 U-23 Pan American Men’s Volleyball Cup are not on sale yet. For more information on the event, please visit www.langleyeventscentre.com