Royals show well at men’s Volleyball National Championship

Photo by Jessica Funk and Drew Harder
Photo by Jessica Funk and Drew Harder

Douglas finishes top four in Canada

By Davie Wong, Sports Editor

When the men’s volleyball team lost at the provincial championships, there was plenty of disappointment to go around. But there was still hope. They put up an astounding performance against the reigning national champions, and with the stress of provincials out of the way, could focus on the real prize. Waiting for them at home was the countdown to the National Championships, where Canada’s top seven teams come together to determine the best team in the country. The host of those Championships this year, was Douglas College, meaning they received a free pass into the tournament, and a chance to be the best.

The action started on Thursday evening, as the sixth seeded host team, the Douglas Royals, took on the third seeded team from Quebec, the Titan de Limoilou. Fans came out in swarms, as the attendance hovered around the 950 mark, most of them supporting the home team. The energy in the building was palpable and the Royals gave the fans something to cheer about as they burst into the tournament with an explosive opening set, winning in dominant fashion, 25-16.

However, the Titans had their own weapons, and they went to work in the second. Stealing away an early lead, they were able to force the Royals to play catch-up. The home team almost succeeded in coming back, but fell just short as Limoilou closed out the set.

With the intensity of the game set, both teams traded sets with equal scores, 25-20. Going into the fifth, the Titans had the momentum, having just won the set before. The Royals jumped out to a 2-1 lead but that lead did not last, as the Royals made a number of errors following it. That gave Limoilou the energy they needed and they were able to come back and finish the game, 15-13, breaking the hearts of the crowd.

After the loss, coach Brad Hudson commented, “They just played better than us. That’s what it really comes down to… It gave them a little bit of life, and again, it’s a good team right? They were the silver medalists last year so they played like it and we did not.”

The loss meant that the Royals were officially knocked out of contention for the gold medal. However, they could still fight for the bronze. In their way was the seventh seeded wildcard team from Alberta, the Keyano Huskies.

The game opened up with a very tight set in Douglas’ favour. The team was able to take the lead early in the set and trade points until they won. But Keyano pulled the reverse on them in the second set, doing the exact same thing, with a 25-23 score.

The next two sets were traded between the teams, leading to the fifth and final set. This time, the Royals executed their game plan flawlessly. They went up early and rode out the game to a 15-11 set win.

The third and final day of the National Championship brought excitement and tribulation for the Royals as they fought for the chance to battle for bronze. Standing in their way was none other than their PACWEST rivals, the Camosun Chargers.

The Royals fell in the opening set, 25-21. However, the toll of the last game was too much for the Chargers, and they could not seem to match the strength of the high flying Royals.

For the first time this season, the Royals were able to cleanly beat the Chargers in fewer than five sets. They bounced back in the second set, taking that 25-20. The team then proceeded to roll over the Camosun squad, beating them in the third set, 25-17.

Sensing their tournament lives were on the line, the Chargers stepped up their game and began looking like the team that had come into the tournament ranked fourth. They came at the Royals hard, challenging them in every area of the court. But it was too little, too late for the squad. A couple mistakes late into the set gave the Royals the win, 27-25.

Hudson spoke following the win, “It was good. We always thought we were a good team. I mean obviously we lost to them in the provincial finals but that wasn’t really part of the equation. We’ve just been searching a little bit, trying to play the way we’re capable of and I think we started to, finally.”

With that win, the team had earned their place in the bronze medal game, which was later that night. Their opponents would be the number two seeded Fanshawe Falcons, the best team out of Ontario. They had also lost to the Titans de Limoilou, albeit in three straight sets instead of five.

Fanshawe came out on top to kick things off, winning the opening set 25-22. The Ontario team then showed great pose as they went into the second set hungry for the win. The Royals looked stunned as the Falcons once again jumped out to a very early lead. This time, they were not even close to catching them, and they lost the set convincingly, 25-20.

Backed against the wall, with a medal finish on the line, the Douglas squad was able to turn it on to start the third set. Jumping out to a decent early lead, the team looked set to threaten with a comeback. But Fanshawe did not come into the tournament ranked number two in country for no reason. They pushed back hard against the home team, and were rewarded with the set win, and the bronze medal.

It was a hard loss for the team that had come so far, and fought so hard. Hudson had some final words as the Royals exited the tournament: “They (Fanshawe) just played really well and did some things that made us uncomfortable. We just couldn’t really find our rhythm. Sometimes the other team is just better that day, and they were just better today… We obviously tried changing the lineup, getting some different guys in, getting some different match-ups, but they handled it really well. We just couldn’t really find a way. It is what it is. I think our kids did the best they could. I think the coaches that supported me and our young guys are all kinds of value to the group and I think the kids played real hard.”

The loss brings an end to the Royals season. They finish fourth in the country, two spots above what they were initially ranked going into the tournament.