The 2014-15 Men’s Volleyball season is in the books. The Alberta Golden Bears successfully defended the CIS Championship for a second year. This tournament saw several great moments that included upsets, surprises and dominance all captured by the great webcast at the University of Saskatchewan. Their event crew did a great job highlighted by the commentators who kept the audience engaged with their witty lines. It was a pleasure to watch.
Alberta and Trinity Western faced off in the final, a rematch of the Canada West final this year. While I’m sure some fans were hoping for a tighter match, I enjoyed watching how dominate the Golden Bears can be. When you think about how good the Trinity Western team is, it is impressive that the Bears were able to beat them 25-19, 25-17, 25-15. Brett Walsh was named Tournament MVP. Superstar Ryley Barnes was named a Tournament All Star as was Taylor Arnett who was awarded for his surprise performance at the tournament. Alberta finished the event without dropping a set to OUA Silver Medalist Waterloo Warriors, AUS Champions Dalhousie Tigers and Canada West Rival Trinity. Alberta’s roster will obviously have some changes for next year, however volleyball fans should be excited knowing that all seven starters are back next year in search of a 3-peat championship run. They have earned the right to be early favourites for next year. It will be great to see every team give them their best throughout the entire season. The Golden Bears will have to earn it as every team will get up to play against them. A challenge the Golden Bears will be ready for and I’m sure look forward too.
Player of the Year Nick Del Bianco was able to cap off his career with a CIS Silver medal. It was great to see him finish off his career on a high note after he was able to win a CIS Gold in first year then suffer a few early exits from the tournament. Time will tell is Nick chooses to pursue indoor at the next level or if he wants to return to the beach where he has already had international success. A great opportunity lies ahead for next year’s Spartans to see if they can continue what Nick and so many other great players have started. The Spartans have made 6 straight CIS appearances and 10 out of the last 12 years. This is a team that knows how to win and get athletes to the next level. They will need several players to step up and fill in the gaps that their senior class leaves.
The McMaster Marauders bounced back from their semi final loss to defeat the Dalhousie Tigers. The win earns the OUA another bid for the 2016 Championships that McMaster will host. Home court advantage could be what pushes the Marauders over the top to claim their CIS Gold. Danny Demyanenko will be entering his 4th year with the Marauders. His CIS career includes a silver medal and 2 bronzes. Danny will be surrounded by other great players Stephen Maar, Brandon Koppers, and Andrew Richards. Mac graduates setter Austin Campion Smith and Jori Mantha. The early favourites to take those spots will be Jayson McCarthy and Andrew Kocur. Ontario fans will know Demyanenko, Maar, McCarthy and Kocur from the golden years of Crush Volleyball Club. The majority of Mac’s roster has been battled tested at the CIS level. Next year could be the year they level up and capture the first gold medal for the OUA in over 20 years.
Dalhousie is back on track after a speed bumps in 2013 and 2011. The Tigers will have to step up in the absence of MVP Bryan Duquette who graduates after 5 years with Dalhousie. Hopefully the young tigers learned a lot during the CIS experience. The Tigers had a target on their back with the number two seed. They battled hard in their first round match up to beat York in 5. The Tigers gave Alberta everything they could handle in their semi final before losing 3-0. The Tigers came out firing in the first set to the McMaster Marauders in the bronze medal match but couldn’t hold that level of performance falling 3-0. It is difficult to prepare for matches at this level. Video can only show much until you are actually looking through the net versus the best. The Tigers can learn a lot from this event and use it to improve on their 4th place finish next year.
Saskatchewan silenced the critics with their play in this event. It was hard to predict if their lay off would be used as rest or create rust. After a 3-0 loss to McMaster to open the event the Huskies showed why they were awarded the opportunity to host the finals as they beat RSEQ Champions Laval in the consolation semi and then York in the consolation final to capture a 5th place finish. It is so hard to earn a spot to play at the CIS Championships, it is always great to see the host show that they deserve to be there. It is not the outcome they were looking for buy Sask should be happy with how they competed and the send off they gave their seniors.
Both York and Waterloo learned a lot about being at this level again. Neither roster had a player on it that had played at a CIS National Champion before. With McMaster hosting next year and winning a bronze medal this year Ontario will have 2 bids up for grabs next year. It will be wide open in Ontario to see who earns those spots but both of these teams have a head start in believing it should be them. York loses 3 veterans including super star Ray Szeto. However they return 4 of their starters this year that got a taste of what the CIS best have to offer. Early predictions say Waterloo will start 5 - 3rd year players next year. Although they didn’t have as good of a showing as York did this year Waterloo is at a good place in their cycle to return to Nationals next year. It is to soon to say these are the 3 teams that will be back next year, the OUA is wide open and I look forward to seeing what happens next season.
If Laval wins the RSEQ next year it will mark the 19th time they have played in the CIS Championships. They are the only non Canada West team to raise the Tantramar Trophy in the last 20 years. For this reason you can’t ever count out the Rouge et Or. I expected Bruno Lortie and Vicente P. Villaiobos to lead the way this year. With another full RSEQ season under their belts next year they will once again lead the team into battle.
CIS fans won’t have to wait until next fall to see the top players in action. Team Canada has a busy summer planned. Keep an eye on many top players to make the Indoor Junior National Team. Team Canada Beach has a CIS and CCAA Selection camp coming up this month in Toronto. It was an exciting year of CIS Volleyball this year. Several exciting story lines already have me excited for next fall.