Avs ready for Mariners

Avalanche hope home-court advantage gives them an edge against their opponents.

Volleyball action will take over the gym at the College of the Rockies gym this weekend as the Avalanche host the visiting Vancouver Island University Mariners.

The two teams have clashed before, when the Avs travelled down to the Island in their final road trip of the fall semester. The Mariners swept both the men’s and women’s Avalanche teams, with the men winning one set in their first game.

Both teams are hoping home court advantage gives them an edge.

“It’s no fun to play in their gym, it’s kind of an odd place to play but I think it’ll be a lot different with home court advantage,” said Kellan Ward, who plays libero for the men’s team.

Rebecca Zemlak, who plays middle with the women’s squad, agreed, noting that her team will be fresh, while the opponents will have to deal with the effects of a 15-hour bus ride.

“We’re well rested and those teams that come here, they’re not used to having those long bus rides,” Zemlak said. “That’s a big advantage for us, is they’re tired and they’re out of their element.”

Ward points to an unusual court that threw his team off when the men were playing at VIU in November, especially when it came to deploying the serve as a weapon.

“Their house is very wide and very weird to play in, there’s not a lot of bearing, so they served us quite well, whereas in our home, we serve quite well,” said Ward. “I think we have a good chance of hurting them in that regard.”

In addition to good serving, Ward notes other parts of the men’s game against the Mariners is important.

“Just shutting down the middle attack,” Ward continued. “They have a pretty good middle there—Lee Hamilton—he’s pretty big, pretty established in the middle, so we’ll find strategies to shut him down and minimize his success.”

The women, coming off two losses last weekend, are hoping to take a few lessons learned to heart against their opponents.

“Just being consistent and coming out with that fire and all of us being on the same page,” said Zemlak, “and having that will, motivation and desire to win. We’ve done a lot of mental prep this week, so I think that’ll be beneficial going into this weekend.”

The ladies have worked hard in practice over the last week and remember a few things from their last meeting on the Island as well.

“Just play to their weaknesses, so being strategic and having a strong offence will be really good for us, as well as keeping up a solid block,” continued Zemlak.

“We have our two outside hitters—Kelsey and Andy—they’re really huge for our team so we want to use them, but we also want to switch it up by using our middle and all of our offence, so VIU doesn’t know who’s going to be attacking.”

The women kick off competition at the College of the Rockies on Friday at 6 p.m. followed by the men at 8 p.m. Action on Saturday starts at 1 p.m. followed by the men two hours later.