Dominant Men’s Volleyball Team has sights set for provincial championship
JUSTIN SCOTT // MANAGING EDITOR
At the beginning of the Capilano University Blues men’s volleyball season, team captain Simon Friesen said that the team had set a goal to medal at provincials. Now with a Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) leading 14-2 record, it appears their goals may have changed. “We haven’t really talked about it, but we’re going for the gold medal. We want to win,” he said.
The team was confident coming into the season as they were returning much of last year’s squad. However, they weren’t necessarily expecting their season to start as well as it did. “It’s what our soul was longing for, we aimed for those performances,” head coach Emmanuel Denguessi said.
The Blues only lost two games prior to the winter break. One was to the second place Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners the day after CapU beat them in a Canadian College Athletic Association (CCAA)’s record-setting match. The other was the team’s last game of 2017 against the Camosun College Chargers. After the Christmas break, the team returned ready to play, winning back-to-back games against the Columbia Bible College Bearcats and another pair against the College of the Rockies Avalanche on Jan. 12 and 13.
The Blues are finding success for a number of reasons, perhaps none more important than their team play. “We’ve got a really good close bond with everybody, so when we’re clicking it’s really easy to play well together,” Friesen said. While players like Friesen, Middle Zarley Zalusky and outside hitter Justin Yee are all having career seasons, it’s the team’s ability to function as one and execute plays from all positions that have made them such a force.
The PACWEST leaderboard for individual statistics is littered with players from VIU, with only three Blues appearances in the top five of major categories. However, as a team, CapU ranks first or second in the league in most categories, exhibiting their collective strengths. “My first year we had the leader in offence and scoring, but we finished second last,” Denguessi explained. “Why? Because we only had one guy who was getting 50 per cent of our passes, so I think the individual statistics can be very misleading.”
One of the major reasons the team has been able to share the wealth of the play is their powerful middle. Zalusky and Mattias Wels-Lopez have enabled a well- rounded attack and defence many teams don’t have the luxury of having. “I think we have two of the strongest middles in the league,” Friesen said. Zalusky is currently second in the league in total blocks.
The strong play from the middle has also allowed the team to attack from numerous areas as opposed to the traditional left side assault. It doesn’t hurt that Friesen leads the league in assists per set with a whopping 9.78 per.
Looking ahead, the team is optimistic that this should be their year, but they’re ensuring they don’t get too comfortable. “All the teams have had the time to develop their cohesiveness, their team spirit and every single team is going to come for us as a unit,” Denguessi warned. He expects the second half of the team’s season to be much tougher than the first, with a pivotal series coming up this weekend. On Jan. 19 and 20, the Blues will host the second place Mariners for another back-to-back series that is very likely going to be a battle of the PACWEST’s two titans.
If the Blues can keep up their play, there’s nothing stopping them from wearing gold around their neck come the end of the season, which would allow them a birth into the CCAA national tournament. “We’re going for the gold medal because we want to be in nationals. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t aim for that,” Denguessi said. “On our best day, we should be unstoppable.”