There’s something about beating the No. 1-ranked team in the nation that can be helpful come national championship time.
For the Camosun Chargers men’s volleyball team, knocking off Douglas College for the PacWest crown this month allowed the B.C. champs to slip into the Royals’ spot atop the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association rankings heading into this week’s national tournament in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
As the top-rated team, they drew the eighth seed for tomorrow night’s (March 12) opener, tourney host Holland College, a squad that went 5-10 in league play, but upset University of New Brunswick Saint John in the Atlantic Collegiate semifinals. The Hurricanes lost the ACAA final 3-0 to the St. Thomas Tommies of Fredericton, who come in ranked No. 6.
The top ranking and advantageous draw were not lost on the Belmont secondary alumni on the Chargers, all four of whom are taking their longest road trip ever for volleyball.
“Especially going in, we can walk in with a bit of confidence,” said first-year middle Doug Waterman, who saw a lot of playing time at the PacWest tournament, moving on and off the floor opposite fellow Belmont alum, fourth-year middle Alex Sadowski.
The team held rather light practices the past week, with head coach Charles Parkinson stating he didn’t want to risk injuries before nationals. Part of their preparation has been watching film of the teams they could face in Charlottetown, looking for individuals to key on, or potential opponents’ defensive or attacking tendencies.
First-year leftsides Taran Silas and Mark Severinsen didn’t see any court time at provincials, being further down the depth chart than tournament MVP Cam Fennema, team captain Jeremy Finn and Tyler Remenda at their position. While they may see little to no game time at nationals either, the former Bulldogs know they need to be prepared if the call comes to sub in.
“We’ve been working on a lot of defensive play at practice (the past week),” Severinsen said. “For first-years (to get in the game), it’s about having confidence on the court and making the most of your opportunities.”
Silas agreed, saying, “I feel it’s all about earning trust from the coaches.”
The two feed off the energy and example shown by Finn, who’s not afraid to give direction to his teammates on and off the court.
Waterman takes his lead from Sadowski, the team’s “old soul” who brings a calm approach to the game, but can crank up the intensity when needed.
“He’s a pretty well put-together dude in all aspects of his life, whether it’s volleyball or school or whatever,” Waterman said with a grin.
The three rookies would love nothing better than to see their team win it all for graduating players like Sadowski and Kelowna native Finn, a rare fifth-year player in the college ranks, both of whom won their first B.C. title with the team this year.
“I want a ring,” Waterman said forcefully. “Hopefully we can get one for those guys.”
As for Sadowski, the notion of ending his collegiate career with a chance to go out on top saw him with mixed feelings as the team prepared to fly out Monday night.
“It’s definitely kind of an emotional experience, knowing that you’re not going to be playing at that competitive level again, at least for this college and in this league,” he said. “Knowing you have the opportunity to finish your last game winning (a title), it’s definitely something we all look forward to.”
Passing along the sage words of Parkinson, who has played and coached at this level in past, Sadowski said, “The biggest enemy when you’re playing in these tournaments is yourself and your mind, thinking too much about things. You really try to avoid those (distractions), play your own game and know what you have to do.”
While he acknowledges that staying focused will be key, he allowed himself a little dreaming time.
“It’s a great opportunity, it’s a great, exciting road trip to extend our season. It’ll be exciting to see what happens,” he said. “It’d be nice to be flying back with another banner and a bunch of gold medals.”