Men’s volleyball takes gold at provincials
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
When the men’s volleyball team headed to Capilano University for provincials, they had one goal in mind: qualify for nationals. After three games in three days, they’d done just that. But it wasn’t enough for them to simply sneak in; instead, they secured their berth at the national tournament by finishing solidly above their competition and taking home a gold medal.
The first day was a quarterfinal date with the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners. While VIU put up a fight, Douglas eventually prevailed in five sets (25-23, 25-13, 21-25, 24-26, 15-10). In the semi-final, the Royals were up against the number two seed, the Camosun College Chargers. The squad made short work of the Chargers though, taking it in straight sets (25-21, 25-15, 25-21).
And then, just like that, the Royals were in the final and playing for PACWEST supremacy against the Columbia Bible College (CBC) Bearcats. They’d already locked up a berth for nationals, but the team didn’t seem satisfied with the result—they were hungry for more. The first set went to CBC 25-22, but as noted by coach Hudson after the game, the team played their game all day: “We started a little bit slow, which you kind of expect. The first time you do anything is always the most difficult and that was their first gold medal match. After we stabilized in the first, we were fine. We just couldn’t get over the hump we’d made early.”
In the second set, the Royals started to take over. PACWEST Rookie of the Year Caleb Konrad seemed to be in on every play, setting up his teammates for kill after kill, and even supplying a deft tip of his own at the net—catching the Bearcats off guard. It seemed like every Royal was on their game that day, and the set was finished off by PACWEST Second Team All-Star Drew Ruby after a set from Angus Ireland.
In case CBC had any doubts about how the rest of the match was to go, Andrew Robson cleared them up with a huge block to start the third set. Fellow middle Nicholas Bridle helped to make life at the net hell for the CBC attackers by coming up with a block of his own early on. The Royals just kept rolling from there. The Bearcats called timeouts at 5-2 and 12-4 in a desperate attempt to slow Douglas’ momentum down, but it was no use. End of the third made the game 2-1 for the Royals after a 25-16 performance.
In what was to be the final set, the Royals made sure they were ready to play. Proving his mettle in the biggest game of the year, George Thompson had five kills in the fourth. It was a tight set, but Douglas got it done when it counted most. With the score tied at 21, the teams went on a long rally—with many in the crowd standing or clinging to the edges of their seats—which the Royals ultimately took after the Bearcats hit long. And then, in a clutch showing, PACWEST First Team All-Star and tournament MVP Andrew McWilliam dropped not one, not two, but three aces in a row to win the game 25-21.
Konrad spoke to how the team pulled off their provincials’ win: “Just a lot of heart. Over the week training before provincials, we just really came together as a team and bonded. We went out there and played for each other instead of ourselves.”
Ruby was taking it all in as the Royals and their supporters celebrated the victory, “We’ve come so far. I’m so damn proud of everyone on this team. I never would have thought that this would be accomplished. It’s amazing right now. I can’t describe it.”
The moment was not lost on the PACWEST Coach of the Year, as Hudson talked about his squad: “I’ve got no words… it’s an exceptional group of young men with undeniable talent, undeniable character, and undeniable ability. They really started to play for each other and realize that responsibility. That was the difference for them.”