A top two finish ensures an interesting playoff run
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
Even before their final series, the Royals women’s volleyball team were guaranteed a historic finish—a top three finish with a chance to contest a top two finish was the highest the team has ever finished in the PACWEST. They capped off a highly successful season with a split series with the Capilano Blues (3–2, and 1–3). The result ensured them a tied record with the Blues, but due to the Royals’ head-to-head record with them, they finished in second and the Blues in third.
The second place finish is so important to the team. It allows the team to have a quarter final bye, and an extra day of rest. However, perhaps most importantly, it allows them to watch their competition. Speaking of which, the Royals will face off against the winner of the Capilano Blues and Camosun Chargers series. Should they win, the Royals will probably move to face off against the VIU Mariners.
The Mariners have an interesting side to their bracket. They play the winner of the COTR and UFV series. Considering that College of the Rockies are the defending provincial champions, I feel safe saying they’ll make it past UFV. Up against the VIU Mariners, they have a record of 1–3. However, if last year has shown us anything, it’s that anything can really happen. Can COTR upset the giants of the PACWEST again? Probably not, but fingers are crossed.
Should the Royals face off against VIU, it’ll be an intense series. They split their season meetings, going 2–2 against each other. For the first time in a very long time, the Royals manage to 3–0 the Mariners, before getting beat 3–0 by them. Needless to say, it’s every bit of a heavyweight tilt that one might think it to be.
If the College of the Rockies Avalanche manage to upset the Mariners once again, it’ll be an interesting matchup. The Royals have gone 3–1 against the COTR squad, but if they defeated VIU, anything is a possibility. If the COTR squad do make it through, one can only expect that the Mariners gave them hell the night before and have at least worn them down for the Royals.
No matter who they face in the final, the Royals will need to make it there and need to win gold to qualify for the National Championships. With the Camosun Chargers hosting the National Championships, the PACWEST only gets one berth into Nationals. That goes to the winner of the PACWEST. Unless somehow the Chargers manage to find a way to pull their landslide of a season together (8–16), which I highly doubt, it’s going to be the winner of the Provincial Championship that will be moving on.
Regardless of their opponent in any stage of the playoffs, the Royals are ready to give every team a run for their money. Coming in late this year, Jeff Ross made immediate moves to fill the team’s already bolstered roster. With a team overflowing with talent, the Royals have more than enough depth to make it through the playoffs.
In the hitting positions, the Royals will probably have Juliana Penner as their number one. In her final year with the team, the Royal’s captain has found more than a few ways to get it down for her squad. Having a new coach to work behind is never easy, but Jeff’s movements around the team have given Juliana the freedom to play without much less pressure, and the effects are staggering.
In the number two and three spots interchangeably, are third year Vicki Schley, and first year Vania Oliveira. Vicki has had a breakout year offensively. On many nights, she has been a clear number two hitter. However, her prior experience as a libero makes her a smooth all-around player, and a key player on the court for the Royals.
Rookie Vania Oliveira has had an offensive breakout year. She played as a redshirt under Kyra Iannone’s system, and it was clear why she was brought into the program. Her hard swinging style and focus on attack is reminiscent of a young Juliana Penner. There have been plenty of times during the year where she has been a talented number two hitter. However, her lack of experience is also her weakness. On off nights, she’s been an outside threat as a number three hitter, and her tendency to collect serving errors makes her a bit of a liability on the service. Nonetheless, she is a part of the Royals’ endless attacking presence.
In the middle, the Royals have two very talented players. Autumn Davidson and Georgia Hurry have defined the Royals’ blocking game. Although they started splitting minutes, Autumn has become the clear number one, with Georgia being a very solid number two. The two have been interchangeable throughout the season, with Autumn being a bigger defensive presence, and Georgia offering a surprising burst of offence on the court.
Coordinating the entirety of the Royals’ offence has been two very talented rookies in Jane Kepler and Abby Mitro. The two setters have done an excellent job of picking up Jeff Ross’ playbook as well as adapting to a completely new set of attackers.
Defensively, the Royals could not be in better hands. Second year Claudia Corneil has been nearly unbeatable in the libero role. She plays with a game sense that is beyond her age, and has ensured that the Royals has every chance to win sets in every game they play.
Package this all together and you have a triple threat offence. Between the Royals hitting talents, fantastic setters, and nearly impenetrable defense, the Royals have a winning composition. This may just be their best chance at a National berth. Never has the team looked so strong. They are my favourites to make the finals, and maybe even the entire Championships.