Although Saskatchewan typically breeds more sturdy hockey players than long-limbed volleyball giants, it’s no reason why the University of Regina men’s and women’s volleyball teams haven’t been able to perform too successfully this year.
With the season more than halfway done, and the women only having three wins – the men only two – both teams were looking to change that last weekend when they travelled to Manitoba to take on the U of M Bisons at the Investors Group Athletic Centre in Winnipeg.
But when going into these games with two pretty ugly losing streaks, how do the teams keep up their morale? Head coach for the men’s team, Greg Barthel, said it is hit and miss.
“It all depends on our performances and if we perform well and don’t come out with the win we are quite satisfied with how we played,” he said. “If we don’t [perform well] our morale is pretty low.”
Both teams are ranked close to the bottom of the pile in the Canada West standings, with a combined total of five wins between the two Cougars teams.
For the men, Barthel knows he can’t use excuses for the lack of W’s, but with no fifth-year players on the team this year, and after losing four of them from last year’s squad, it’s been somewhat of a transition year for the men’s team.
“Anytime you have guys who are starting for the first time and playing a lot more then they had, it’s definitely a learning curve year,” he said.
The men have five players who are in their fourth year, the woman’s team has only two.
Still, the men haven’t had over a .300 per cent hitting average the entire season while the women can only boast one .373 percentage against Thompson Rivers back in December.
While the team statistics are rather dismal, according to the Canada West individual standings, it seems as though the Cougars athletes aren’t doing too bad.
“You don’t want to blame it on injuries but we’ve had a lot this year to some pretty big contributors. We’ve only had our full line for one of our weekends, so that’s kind of disappointing.” – Greg Barthel
For the men, second-year outside hitter Rhodri Simmonds is ranked second in service aces while second-year right side Andrew Nelson, fourth-year setter Caleb Eschbach, and second-year left side Jacques Borgeaud are in the top ten for kills, assists and digs respectively.
And for the women, second-year setter Megan Lane has a team high ranking of second for assists, while fourth-year outside hitter Desiree Ates and third-year middle blocker Michelle Sweeting round out the top ten for points.
Nevertheless, something still just isn’t clicking for the Cougars on the court.
“You don’t want to blame it on injuries, but we’ve had a lot this year to some pretty big contributors,” explains Barthel, of his men’s squad. “We’ve only had our full line for one of our weekends, so that’s kind of disappointing.”
But, when you are going up against a team who is stacked with fifth-year veterans who are aiming for a national championship, all you can do is ask the players to go out on the court and be reliable.
“We want to go out there and play consistent and play one point at a time … and let the results go how they will,” said Barthel before his teams match against U of M last weekend.
In the end, the men’s and women’s teams each lost to the Bisons this past weekend.
Both teams surrendered three straight sets in their two games. The women came close to clinching a couple of sets during the game on Jan. 26, but couldn’t quite pull ahead of the home team.
Nelson carried his team with 15 kills and Ates led the ladies with 12 kills, both during the last Saturday’s games.
With only two more weekends of action to go, the Cougars are looking to add just a couple more wins at the end of their season. The teams take on the U of S this weekend, with both teams playing at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport on Saturday, Feb 2.
Photo by Marc Messett