(ISN) – The Camosun Chargers volleyball teams closed the first half of the PACWEST season with an exciting sweep over the UFV Cascades in their November 28-29 road series weekend. While the women went the distance in both contests to land 10-2 (#2) in the mid-season standings, the men blasted by their opponents in straight sets to sit 9-3 (#3). Despite having different plans for the break, both teams have their sights set on the PACWEST Provincial Volleyball Championships which will be hosted by Camosun College, February 26-28, 2015.
In women’s action, the Chargers had to pull out all the stops to get past the very tough and athletic Cascades, with both matches going to five (FRI: 25-23, 20-25, 10-25, 28-26, 15-7; SAT: 25-11, 18-25, 26-24, 24-26, 15-10).
Fifth-year vet Hilary Graham (Courtenay) led the Chargers to victory on Friday with 15 points (12 kills, 2 aces, 1 block), while third-year outside hitter Katie Fetting and fourth-year middle Morgan Marshall topped the stats in Saturday’s win with 17 points apiece (Fetting: 16 kills, 1 ace; Marshall: 11 kills, 4 aces, 2 blocks). Fifth-year libero Mariah Holmstrom (Campbell River) stepped up with a grand total of 33 digs over the weekend.
“UFV’s roster boasts a combination of size and athleticism that can make life difficult for opposing teams,” states Chargers Women’s Head Coach Chris Dahl. “They are only one season removed from bringing a CCAA Championship banner to the PACWEST and over the past few seasons we’ve had some long battles with them. On Friday we faced three match points in the fourth set and held our ground to force a fifth. On Saturday it was the reverse; we held 3 match points in the 4th set and it was UFV’s turn to push for a deciding set. Our response in the fifth both days was impressive and gave us opportunity to secure the wins. The fifth set can be a pressure cooker, it’s the ultimate competitive arena in our sport and I was impressed with our ability to perform in that environment.”
On the men’s side, the Chargers pulled off a pair of back-to-back straight set wins over UFV (FRI: 30-28, 25-23, 25-23; SAT: 25-19, 25-19, 25-22) with second-year rightside Rian Plante (Comox) earning PACWEST Athlete of the Week. Over the weekend, Rian contributed a total of 26 kills (23 kills, 3 blocks) and 12 digs to represent his finest PACWEST performance.
“It’s always great to win six in a row over the course of a weekend, and the fact that UFV was right behind us in the standings going into the weekend make the victories ever sweeter,” comments Camosun Men’s Head Coach Charles Parkinson. “Despite our sweep, they are still a great team and we play them early in the second half of the season so we can’t rest on our laurels. I’m sure when they come to our gym the will be coming with a chip on their shoulder and everyone healthy and ready to play, especially former Charger Ryan Thain and their outside hitter Curtis Stromdahl, both of whom have been injured. I am sure it will be even more difficult than it was to win on their home court.”
While conference competition breaks for exams and Winter holidays, the Camosun crews will be recharging for the second half of the season, albeit in different ways.
“It is important that we continue to train throughout the break in the schedule,” explains Coach Dahl. “Our athletes don’t cease to be so when the league schedule is interrupted. Training, taking care of their bodies and preparing for competition is part of their routine and we try to maintain this routine to the best of our abilities at this time of the year. I think this is easy to accomplish as we truly enjoy coming together as group. It’s definitely one of our program strengths.”
The men will continue practicing until December 16th, and then take a two-week break from volleyball before the New Year.
“We will have been training hard for more than 110 days when we break and everyone needs some time off to finish up their school work, rest their bodies, repair their injuries and clear their heads,” says Coach Parkinson. “Enjoying family and friends during some down time over the holiday season is a great way to recharge the batteries because the second half of the season is shorter and more intense. We have a bye during the first weekend of play which will allow us to focus on getting everyone back up to speed technically, tactically, physically and mentally.”
Despite taking different approaches on recharging, the Chargers squads are aiming to be at their peak when Camosun hosts the PACWEST Provincial Championships in Victoria, February 26-28.
“We’re not unlike others as we undergo a process with the sole intention of reaching optimal performance levels at the PACWEST Championships,” states Coach Dahl. “Our records suggest that we’re off to a great start and perhaps have an advantage over our opposition so one of our challenges is to not only maintain that gap, but to continue to develop at a rate greater than our opposition. Hosting the PACWEST Championships at Camosun is a big deal. We are looking forward to the event and the opportunity for the local volleyball community to share in that excitement. This is a great volleyball city and the Island has long been a vibrant home for the sport.”
Currently third in the PACWEST standings, the Chargers men are looking to advance and establish themselves as the team to beat during the playoffs.
“We’d like to secure one of the two first-round byes at the end of league play but to do that we will have to be solid in our execution on offense, blocking, back row defense and from the service line,” comments Coach Parkinson. “This will be a difficult task as we have heard that several teams will be adding players for the second half of the season. I am confident, however, that regardless of which teams and players we face we have the quality and depth of student athletes, as well as the experience, to go all the way this season. It will be invaluable to us to have our home fans supporting us as our ‘7th man’ when Camosun plays host to the Championships. This motivates players to do things they never knew they were capable of and helps them to be in the moment when it counts the most.”
The Chargers return to PACWEST action in January with a rematch against the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades at PISE, January 16-17, 2015.
Stay tuned for more information on the 2015 PACWEST Provincial Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Championships.