Going for gold

Men’s volleyball team sees this season as opportunity to win it all

Justin Scott // Managing Editor

Last season was an interesting one for the Capilano University Blues men’s volleyball team. They may have come away from the Pacific Western Athletics Association’s (PACWEST) provincial tournament empty-handed, but they knew that in a way, they didn’t.

While they had no medal around their necks, they would be returning this year with a near-identical roster, bolstered by a year of PACWEST experience and an off season of training. Essentially, they believe that this is their year.

Returning all but two players, this year’s squad know each other, they’ve played together and have grown together – something that both team captain Simon Friesen and head coach Emmanuel Denguessi identified as one of the team’s strengths.

“I think last year one of our biggest problems was that we weren’t a very strong mental team because we were all so young,” said Friesen. “But having a year in the PACWEST of experience for most of the guys, or two years for me, that’s really going to help,” he continued.

Denguessi agrees with Friesen. In his eyes, this year’s team has a clear advantage over last year’s regarding league experience. “I think when you’re new, you’re more driven by what you shouldn’t do and the fear of making a mistake,” he said, “but I think the guys have fear under their belt. I think the majority of them already know the league and what the expectations are.”

Building on the past year, Denguessi also sees enormous potential for the team’s system. “Because we have most of our players returning it means that the system that we used last year is going to be implemented on another level this year,” he said.

While there is much talk of using last year as a springboard to achieve success this year, it’s not to say that last year was a failure. Although they lost in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, they lost to the eventual champions. Additionally, their young roster took home some serious hardware at the PACWEST awards. Justin Yee was named the Rookie of the Year and the team’s libero, Jonathan Lee, joined him on the All-Rookie team. Friesen was named a First Team All-Star. All three players are returning this year.

Although there is an undeniable optimism about the men regarding the upcoming season, their lone pre-season game so far against Columbia Bible College (CBC) didn’t go as well as planned.

“I don’t think we played to our potential,” said Friesen. Looking back on the loss he explained that the team’s defense was strong as always, but their offense was lackluster. “Our defense is always scrappy, it has been for the past couple years and I think that’s going really well,” he said. “We’re hard to score against, but we give away a lot of errors on the offensive side,” Friesen continued, highlighting hitting efficiency as something the team needs to work on.

Friesen’s confidence in the team’s defence is shared by his coach. “Defensively we’re going to be very good, it will be dif cult to beat us in that area,” said Denguessi.

It’s also worth noting that Yee, who was one of, if not the team’s main offensive weapon last season, injured his ankle in the summer and is only now getting cleared to start jumping in practice again. All in all, this season is looking promising for the men’s team – and they know it.

“We’ve all set out a bunch of individual goals for ourselves and a bunch of team goals for ourselves – they’re all set pretty high,” said Friesen. “We all want to make the finals – that’s pretty much what it came down to. We want to get top two, at least third and finish with a medal around our necks.”

While achieving these goals would undoubtedly be an improvement over last season, Denguessi thinks they can aim higher. “The players are very conservative in their goals. We want to go to nationals – that’s my goal and we can do it,” he said. Additionally, according to the coach the PACWEST is going through what he called a “rebuilding year,” which he sees as an opportunity.

Denguessi believes that the team’s biggest competition may be themselves if they’re not careful. “The only thing that will play against us is ourselves. I think we need to be strong mentally because volleyball is an extremely mental sport. So, the minute that you doubt your ability, it affects the way that you play,” he concluded.

Mindful of this, Friesen has made his aforementioned personal goals to make sure this doesn’t happen. “I want to become a better leader for the team, I want to be a guy for the team that can keep team spirits high when things aren’t going well for the team,” he said. Then with a smile from ear to ear, he concluded with, “I’m really excited to get back into the grind – six days a week. It sounds terrible, but it’s what I live for.”

 

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