At the Break: Men’s Volleyball

MCAC Men’s Volleyball
Current standings as of January 4th, 2017

Team        W L Points
Canadian Mennonite University Blazers 8 2 16
Providence University College Pilots 7 2 14
University of Winnipeg College Wesmen 5 5 10
Les Rouges de l’Université de St.Boniface 4 4  8
Assiniboine Community College Cougars 3 5  6
Red River College Rebels 1 10  2

Men’s volleyball has been a very close race early in the 2016 season, but some teams have played as many as 4 more games than others. Regardless, the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers sit in first place having dropped only two games so far. Their first loss was to Providence University College on October 25th and the second to U of W on November 13th. Otherwise, the Blazers are rolling. With a 26-10 record in total sets played and a 1 game lead on PUC, Head Coach Don Dulder is confident with his team’s play so far.

“I would say that my team is performing about what I would have expected . We are near the top and have very good depth. Having said that there is a great deal of parity as ACC, St. Boniface, U of W and Providence are all strong. With the U of Winnipeg back, it has definitely strengthened the league.”

The University of Winnipeg did not field a men’s volleyball team last season but as Dulder suggests, the addition of their program to the league this season has kept an even tighter knit on points among the standings.

“Our challenge is to improve and mainly to stay healthy”, says Dulder. “The addition of Adrian Dyck to Providence has really made them a serious contender for the league title. Overall the level of play I feel is high and the volleyball is very competitive and entertaining.”

Dyck was named an MCAC Athlete of the Week this season in Week 12, and is an extremely effective 6’4″ second-year Left side who has been tearing up the opposing block for Providence. Realistically, with a game in hand on the Blazers, the Pilots could very well be tied for the #1 spot. But Head Coach Scott Masterson sees lots of things for the Pilots to improve upon in the second half of the season.

“Based on how we started the year I would like to have seen stronger play from our team by the end of the first semester for sure. But we also were able to find ways to win most of our matches even when we were not playing our best. I think that shows a lot about the character of a team.”

The Pilots started their season with 4 consecutive 3-0 sweeps before dropping their first game of the season to Universite de Saint-Boniface on October 28th.

“We will need to make sure we have a strong start to the second half of the season”, continues Masterson. “If we can come in with everyone healthy from the break then I think our overall skill level and athleticism is a strength of ours. Our weaknesses will be whether or not we can find a way to consistently play to our potential and whether or not we can stay healthy.”

Providence was tested by the University of Winnipeg College back on November 27th, shortly before the season’s midway break. UW won the first and fourth sets before dropping the fifth by a score of 15-11, but the Wesmen could be viewed as somewhat of a darling team in the MCAC this season. With an extremely short bench to go along with their reentry into the Conference this season, one would understand if the Wesmen put forth a rebuilding-type season full of growing pains. Instead, the Wesmen have grabbed the attention of several opposing coaches and have emerged as somewhat of a dark horse capable of the aforementioned 3-2 test for top teams within the conference.

Sporting a .500 record in both matches and sets played so far, the 5-5 Wesmen owe at least some amount of their success to Week 9 MCAC Athlete of the Week, Turner Johnson. Johnson’s exceptional ball control and overall versatility is often used in a 6-2 offense by the Wesmen, allowing him to get touches as both an outside attacker and a setter. He also features a wicked spin serve, making him one of the more complete volleyball players in the conference.

As far as marquee wins go, UW College beat Canadian Mennonite University midway through November by a score of 3-2 (25-22, 25-22, 15-25, 24-26,15-12). This was the lone win for the Wesmen against teams that currently sit above them in the standings so far, a task that UW will want to continue when they begin the second half of their season hosting the Blazers this weekend on January 8th.

The other .500 men’s volleyball record in the MCAC belongs to Les Rouges de l’Université de St.Boniface, a team who also did not exist just a season ago. Sitting with 4 wins and 4 losses, Les Rouges accrued W’s against Red River College and Providence to start their season before dropping their next 2 games to U of W and CMU. On November 16th, USB bounced back against U of W College winning a 3-2 decision and then beat Red River for a second time to get their 4th win.

Les Rouges will kick off the second half of their season tomorrow against the 3-5 Assiniboine Community College Cougars, and will see them again the following day at 1:30pm in what should be an excellent test for two teams sitting close in the standings.

ACC Head Coach, Joel Small, thinks his Cougars could’ve just as easily rounded out their first half with the same record as Les Rouges. 

“We’ve played well so far this season, I think we could definitely be 4-4, we had a couple winnable games that we just didn’t pull out. We had a bit of a slow start having to play PUC and CMU (at the beginning of the season), who are clearly the top two teams in the conference. Starting out 0-4 is a tough way to start the season.”

The Cougars set themselves back at the beginning of the season losing to PUC and CMU twice apiece before they were able to shelf 2 wins against Red River College. They also traded wins with U of W College in November, and so far despite a losing record, Small believes they’re moving in the right direction.

“It’s our best season we’ve had since I started coaching at ACC which is really positive, so we are looking to get some more wins in the second half of the season.”

“I think ourselves, U of W College and St. Boniface will be a close race for the last playoff spots. It’s all really close, and that’s what I expected it to be. In the second half we are gonna need a sweep of an opponent here or there if we want to see the playoffs.”

The team currently sitting in last place with a single win against Les Rouges, the Red River College Rebels, showed a glimmer of hope at the beginning of December when they capped off their first half of the season with a 3-2 victory (20-25,25-18,19-25,25-20,15-11). Though a 1-10 record may not be a record that most teams aspire to have, the Rebels have a few positives to bring into the new year with them. First, they currently sit only 6 points (3 games) out of a playoff spot. For them to make the final tournament, a single week’s worth of games could quite possibly shoot them into contention. And second, the Rebels could benefit from mid-season eligibility as they have in the past when school programs start in January and student athletes become eligible. Regardless, the Rebels need to hustle if they want to return to the MCAC Championship final they lost to Providence a season ago.

This weekend we’ll see men’s volleyball action pick back up in the MCAC with the following match ups:

Date                        Time             Teams            Location
Fri Jan 6, 2017 7:30 PM USB  @ ACC         Assiniboine Community College
Sat Jan 7, 2017 1:30 PM USB  @ ACC         Assiniboine Community College
Sun Jan 8, 2017 7:30 PM CMU @ UW         Duckworth Centre

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