Men’s volleyball has big showing at Provincials
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
Coming into the PACWEST Provincial Championships, nothing was really expected out of the fifth-seeded Douglas College Royals. While they were expected to make the playoffs, many had them placed as a quarter-final exit. The men had other plans, though.
Right from the start of the tournament, the guys had their odds stacked against them. Facing them in the first round was a very well rested College of the Rockies squad. The CotR team made sure the Royals knew it, too. In the first set, they were able to up-end the Royals 25–20. But the Douglas College squad just needed a set to get warmed up, or, at least, Devon Dunn did. Dunn was a monster on the defensive end, racking up dig after dig, then finishing his own defensive play with a crushing swing. Nothing less than what was expected from a PACWEST First-Team All-Star, but maybe a little more. Behind him, the Royals were able to grab a 25–17 set win to tie the game up at one-a-piece.
Carrying on with their momentum, the Douglas squad was able to get off to an early lead in the third, but the CotR squad were not to be beat so easily. They stormed back into the set after a timeout, and finished the set comeback with a win, 25–22. Down to the wire, the Royals needed to win the fourth to force the fifth and final set. Justin Faester helped with that by grabbing the team six points to start the fourth. Building on that lead, the Royals were able to expand and hold it as they marched their way through the fourth set, winning 25–19 to force the fifth set.
With both squads facing possibly their last set of the year, it was all or nothing. Desperation was a huge factor here. Maybe that’s why it was so close. Tied up 12–12 in the fifth, it was the heroics of several Royals players that delivered them from the fifth set into a semi-final bout with a 15–12 set win.
Next up were the hosts, the VIU Mariners. The Mariners were probably the best team coming into the tournament, and beating the Mariners was always going to be a longshot. But the Royals have done it before, and they looked to do it again. They got off to a rough start, but eventually pulled it close again. In fact, it was so close that it went to extra points and a little bit more than that. When the dust settled, it was the Mariners out on top with a 31–29 set win. With the momentum, the hosts drove the game out of the Royals hands. It was a clean 3–0 win, with the two other sets being 25–19. The loss was a hard one, but overall, the team played well. Although out of gold contention, and out of a National Championship berth, the Royals still had a chance to bring some hardware home.
They matched against the second seeded UFV Cascades in the Bronze medal match. The Cascades, who were National Championship favorites, fell to the Chargers the night before in the semi-finals and were now heavily favoured for the bronze. However, the Royals gave them a couple of things to think about from the start. A dominant 25–18 set win was just what the Royals needed, but maybe what the Cascades needed as well.
The UFV team had a couple of gems of their own, including a second set win, 25–20. Once again, the Royals fell behind in the third. They nearly caught them late, but the Cascades just barely squeezed out a third set win, 25–23. Down to the wire once again, the Royals needed a huge effort to comeback. That effort came in the form of Johnson Yi. His play in the fourth set singlehandedly tied the game for the Royals, and forced the fifth set.
It’s something about the Royals and fifth sets. Maybe the players are just better under pressure. Or maybe they’ve got an extra gear labelled “clutch.” Whatever it is, they just always find a way to step their game up in the do or die set. In this case, it was Devon Dunn who literally stepped up, and slammed down the bronze for the Royals. They upset the UFV Cascades in the fifth set (15–9) and won bronze at the PACWEST Provincial Championships. Not bad for a team that was expected to barely squeak into the playoffs at the beginning of the season.