Avalanche women ready to roll

Strong showing in Red Deer sets up for PACWEST opener

Taylor Rocca

The College of the Rockies women’s volleyball concluded pre-season tournament play this past weekend at the iHotel Wild Rose Classic hosted by Red Deer College.

The young Avs squad squeezed out victories in three of five games played over the weekend, including two wins over Medicine Hat College and another over King’s University College.

“We’ve got rookies stepping up and taking spots,” said Avalanche women’s head coach Andrew Zurrin Tuesday afternoon. “It looks like three rookies are going to be on the floor for sure [to start the season].”

To have 50 per cent of the Avs starting lineup comprised of rookies when there are five veterans on the roster speaks to the progression of Zurrin’s young players through two weekends of pre-season play. There are nine rookies pulling on Avalanche blue for the first time this year.

The Avs opened the weekend against the host Red Deer College Queens, falling in straight sets (15-25, 9-25).

After being on the receiving end of a drubbing courtesy the host team, the Avs turned things around with a straight-sets win over Medicine Hat College (25-16, 25-19) to round out round-robin play.

That set up for a first-round bracket match against the Lethbridge College Kodiaks, who had visited Cranbrook for Rumble in the Rockies the week prior. In Cranbrook, the Avs fell to the Kodiaks in five sets. Games at the Wild Rose Classic were limited to three sets and the Kodiaks took advantage, disposing of the Avalanche in straight sets (14-25, 24-26).

Zurrin’s squad finished the weekend in strong fashion, knocking off King’s University College in three sets (25-13, 22-25, 15-6) before claiming a second straight-sets win over Medicine Hat College (25-6, 25-23).

With exhibition play in the books, the focus shifts towards the regular season, which begins Oct. 23 when the Avalanche travel to the Lower Mainland, opening the PACWEST regular season against the Columbia Bible College Bearcats.

Zurrin now has an idea as to what sort of lineup he will be starting come Oct. 23. With two weeks of practice leading up to the PACWEST opener, Zurrin and the Avs will work to create more chemistry amongst the starters in hopes of putting forth a cohesive unit against the Bearcats.

Though the squad has yet to face any PACWEST competition, after missing out on the PACWEST conference championships in 2013-14, Zurrin believes the newest edition of Avalanche women have what it takes to run with the some of the conference powerhouses.

“If we play our game, I think we can stack up with every team [in PACWEST] and give them a run,” Zurrin said. “Last year’s [Avalanche] team pushed both Camosun and VIA [Vancouver Island University] and I say we’re at least twice as good as we were last year.

“We’re going to be able to attack through the middle. As soon as we attack through the middle, we’re going to be able to free up our outsides and score. Last year, [teams] just double-blocked our outsides because they could just wait out there. They knew we weren’t attacking through the middle.”

The Vancouver Island University Mariners claimed the PACWEST title in 2013-14, before moving on to a bronze-medal finish at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championships.

Following the Oct. 23 opener against Columbia Bible College, the Avs move on to face University of the Fraser Valley (Oct. 24 and 25) before closing the weekend against Columbia Bible College Oct. 26.