Currently unbeaten in the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference, the Red River College Rebels men’s volleyball team has dominated every one of their matches against local competition. Thanks to Niagara College’s Big Kahuna Volleyball Classic, they were finally given a chance to test their mettle against national competition.
The Rebels were the only Manitoba team invited to Niagara College’s Big Kahuna Volleyball Classic on January 3 and 4, 2009. The tournament featured some of the top college teams from Ontario and Quebec, including the Fanshawe College Falcons, who were previously ranked second in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association.
“Obviously when you’re having that success within province you don’t get a real picture of where you are relative to the rest of Canada and the other programs that are going on,” said Rebel’s head coach Dan Gilbert.
The high calibre of play was a wakeup call for the usually dominant Rebels.
“Our second game we were lazy on defence,” said Gilbert, commenting on the round robin game against Georgian College.
“We outplayed them in every aspect the game except defence. We’re a big team and I think we take it for granted that we’re going to score points.”
The Rebels also hurt without their starting setter Kevin Brown, who went down in the team’s second round robin game with a back injury before returning in the tournament playoffs.
“I strained my back in the second game,” said Brown. “I sat out a day and it felt good enough that I could ignore it.”
The Rebels finished the round robin with one win and two losses, but advanced to the tournament final thanks to a semi-final win against Niagara College. The final was a rematch against Fanshawe who they lost to in the round robin, but the team was far more prepared with Brown healthy enough to play. The Rebels beat the Falcons and Kevin Brown took tournament MVP honours.
“In the playoffs our passing made it so much easier on me. I could run the offence and I could see what the blocks were doing,” said Brown. “The only reason I won MVP was because guys were putting the balls away. I just get the glory sometimes because I’m the setter.”
Other tournament all-stars from the Red River Rebels were John Tronrud and Matt Lux. The overall performance at the Big Kahuna Volleyball Classic gives the Rebels proof that their program is advanced to the point they deserve to play higher competition on a regular basis.
Currently, the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference is seeking membership in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association. Affiliate status could come as early as fall 2009, allowing MCAC schools to compete for national collegiate championships.
“Right now Red River isn’t eligible for nationals,” said Brown. “So to be able to go and play teams that are available for nationals and win that tournament, it shows that Red River is getting better.”
By Kalen Qually