(ISN) – The Camosun College Chargers volleyball teams made history this year with both the men’s and women’s squads qualifying for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) National Championships which begin this week. While the Chargers men have made a number of appearances at Nationals, it will be a record-making first for the women who have engineered the program’s most successful season to date.
At the PACWEST Provincial Championships hosted by Camosun February 26-28, the Chargers men knocked off the top- ranked Douglas College Royals to ink in their second at-home Championship win and eighth trip to Nationals. In the women’s final, the Chargers were denied their first-ever gold medal by island rivals, the VIU Mariners who upset the top- seeded Chargers to defend their PACWEST Championship title. Camosun finished the season with silver and a wildcard berth to the big event.
Volleyball maven and Chargers men’s Head Coach Charles Parkinson is exceptionally proud of the attitude and ethic that this year’s squad has adopted and put forward.
“It has been really rewarding this season working with an extraordinary group of student athletes who shared a common goal from day one and worked tirelessly each practice and match to achieve it,” comments Coach Parkinson who spends the off-season as a TV Analyst for events such as the Olympics, World League and World Beach Tour. “What made it especially rewarding is that they were all open to new ideas along the way and to making the technical modifications necessary to make themselves better, were passionate about our team and our sport and believed in and respected what we were doing as coaches…from skill development to systems to our philosophy. It is the work that they have put in, their toughness on the court and the belief in their capabilities now as a team that will help us achieve our goals at Nationals.”
Chargers women’s Head Coach Chris Dahl who has spent the past five years cultivating the program virtually from the ground up attributes his team’s success to a combination of key elements.
“There’s never one thing that is the source and perhaps it is the ability to recognize this that is the key to our student-athlete’s success,” states Coach Dahl who was named 2015 PACWEST Coach of the Year for Women’s Volleyball. “The life of the student-athlete can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s also a balancing act. The Chargers do a great job of looking after all aspects of their lives and when you do this, the opportunities for success on the court follow. I’m also inclined to suggest that talent and experience are a big piece of the puzzle. It takes talent to win at the rate we have this year. Our athletes have dedicated a lot of their time to sport and most, if not all, come from a multi-sport background. Finally, being an experienced crew isn’t merely a reference to our veterans. We’ve gathered athletes throughout our roster that have experience in big moments. Provincial team, club and high school championships have provided our athletes with a wealth of experience and this year, more than any other, we have been able to navigate various scenarios with poise and confidence.”
Seeded No. 1 going into Nationals, the Chargers men face off against the hosting Holland Hurricanes but neither the distraction of a raucous home crowd or the pressure of being the top target amongst the nation’s best are worrying the Chargers at this point of their journey.
“The greatest challenge for most athletes in big competitions is not the opposition,” states Coach Parkinson. “Rather, the old expression that the enemy lies within is never truer than under the most stressful conditions like at a National Championships when nerves, self-doubt, inexperience and a host of other self-generated obstacles can creep into play. Our goal is to remain mentally strong and focused throughout the event and to help each other out when we stumble, celebrate with each other when we are successful and live and compete in the moment, enjoying what will be an experience that will last a lifetime. Over the past 26 weeks we have put in the time, energy, sweat and volume of work necessary to carry us through and these are the things we’ll remember when we feel challenged.”
As the fourth-seeded team and newcomers to the Championships, the Chargers women have a different view of the task at hand with their sights set on their opponents. In their first-round match-up, the Chargers meet up with the #5 Grande Prairie Wolves who also qualified with a wildcard.
“I’m not trying to over simplify this, but I feel our biggest challenge is our opposition,” says Coach Dahl. “It’s the National Championship event and you expect that your opposition is equal to the task. We drew a tough card in the draw. Going into the tournament as the #4 seed after being upset in our conference final is an acknowledgement of the season’s accomplishments. Grande Prairie is a tough opponent. They do a number of things really well on the court and I expect that our match will be one of constant pressure. Our experience at the PACWEST Championships hosted by Camosun College has prepared us well for the National stage. The court set up was incredible and the crowd support tremendous. Those experiences were memorable and we’re grateful for the support. Our athletes have already been on the big stage and that will serve us well in Montreal.”
While the Chargers men and women take different approaches in their pursuit of the prize, both squads agree that “teamwork” is at the heart of all their efforts and the focus of what the Chargers are all about.
“We are a good team that executed well at the Provincial Championships, but I believe our finest play is still ahead of us and I am most excited to see how excellent we can be on the biggest stage in college volleyball,” comments Coach Parkinson. “Winning is always a great outcome, but it’s the process that has given meaning to our entire season. Each attack, each block, each serve, each touch of the ball has been with a purpose for the past 27 weeks and when a group of athletes truly understands what they are capable of together it starts to be reflected in their play and they ultimately become better than they ever thought possible at the start. It is a powerful lesson for sport and also for life on what teamwork really means and my greatest hope is that they can reach their peak in terms of execution, teamwork and confidence at Nationals because we are so close right now.”
As the year ramps up to the pinnacle event, Coach Dahl expresses that what he looks forward to the most is the experience of another weekend with his team.
“Every season is a unique journey,” he explains. “It’s an acknowledgement of people, combinations of people, and the relationships we build. We’re going to pursue a Championship to the best of our ability. There’s no doubt about that. Our athletes are focused and looking forward to the opportunity to represent Camosun College and Victoria on the National stage.”
Catch the Chargers as they pursue Gold at the 2015 CCAA National Championships!