After two semesters of volleyball, the men’s Avalanche team is readying for a run at the provincial title when the Pacwest championship kicks off on Thursday at the College of the Rockies.
The college was awarded with the honour of hosting the event, and the team is looking forward to home court advantage, according to men’s head coach Steve Kamps.
“Court awareness changes when you’re on the road,” said Kamps. “The amount of hours we’ve practiced in this gym, we’ve got three fifth-year guys on this team—that’s a huge advantage for us and combine that with hopefully a big crowd on Thursday night and things should fall into place for us.”
Mitch Duthie, who plays right side with the team, said the home court allows him and his teammates to draw support from the crowd during matches.
“We have a great home base,” said Duthie. “We love playing in front of our fans, just like any other home team, but we feel like we do play a lot better at home.”
“…With provincials being here, it’s going to be really exiting. We can do big things.”
The Avs ended their season two weekends ago on the road, as both the men’s and the women’s teams got defeated by their counterparts from Columbia Bible College and the University of the Fraser Valley.
The women had a tough season and weren’t able to finish high enough in the standings to qualify for the provincial tournament.
The men have spent the last week preparing for the tournament, working both on mental preparation and physical skills out on the court.
The playoff format is one-game elimination, so all it takes is two wins to get through the quarterfinal and semifinal, to get into the final match.
“Coming to provincials, it’s like the start of a new season, so we’re all pretty excited about it,” said Duthie. “It’s just starting over, starting fresh and we’re all looking forward to Thursday night’s game.”
The men’s Avs played four matches against the Capilano University Blues, who they will face in the quarterfinal match on Thursday evening at 8 p.m. at the College gym.
The Avs took their only win against the Blues on the road in their opening road trip at the beginning of the season, winning in straight sets.
The Blues came back for a sweep of their own the following day in a rematch, winning 3-0.
The Blues also came up to Cranbrook and won two matches in straight sets.
“Cap came in here and took a couple off us, which didn’t really sit well with the guys,” said Kamps.
However, the Avs are itching to avenge those losses on their home court, where a single win advances them deeper into the championship.
“The real season starts on Thursday and we need to be confident and ready to go and if you play well, anything can happen,” said Kamps. “It’s single-elimination and it only takes two wins to get to the final and off to nationals.”
“It all boils down to the mental side of the game and physically, I think we’re one of the most talented teams in the league, size-wise, we’re definitely the biggest in the league and we’re in our gym, and all that combined, I think that bodes well for us.”
Duthie noted that the Avs had trouble passing the ball and being consistent when the teams last met. The Blues play a simple style of volleyball and don’t make a lot of mistakes that opposing teams can capitalize on.
“We just got to make them make errors,” said Duthie. “…They are a pretty strong hitting team, but nothing crazy—we’ve seen a lot harder. We just got to put our block up and put a good consistent swing on the ball.”
Though the Avs have their first game Thursday evening, volleyball action begins in the afternoon at 1 p.m., starting with the ladies, as Columbia Bible College and Douglas College open the tournament.
College organizers are hoping to pack out the stands for the event, and attendees are automatically entered into numerous draw prizes that include a flatscreen TV and ski passes.
Matches also follow at 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8.p.m for Thursday and Friday. Saturday is almost the same, with matches at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., but the women’s gold medal game starts at 5:30 p.m. and the men at 8 p.m.