Up-and-down first half for men’s volleyball new players and aggressive mindset lead to 10-4 start
After an up-and-down start, the SAIT Trojans men’s volleyball team finished their first half with a seven-game winning streak.
At the winter semester break, the defending Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) champions had a 10-4 record, placing them second in the ACAC South Division.
Their winning streak came after losing four straight games in late October.
“Any time a new team is forming, you’re going to go through some dips and some highs, and that was one of our dips – but the guys were active in trying to get out of it,” said head coach Sean McKay.
The coach noted that they lost against the top teams (Lethbridge College and Red Deer College) and won against the weaker teams (Ambrose University, Olds College, and Medicine Hat College).
To bridge that gap, McKay said the team’s passing needed to improve.
“We’ve got some great attackers, we just haven’t been able to use some of them because of our passing,” said McKay.
Veteran fifth-year setter Nathan Goss echoed that sentiment, saying that the team needed to “find ways to score when things aren’t going [their] way.”
“Against the good teams, we have to play some clean ball, have a good sideout percentage, and reduce our errors from the service line,” Goss added.
Goss was leading the team by a wide margin in assists (343), even though his assists per set (7.98) were down from his career average of 9.36.
McKay wants to continue the team’s aggressive offensive mindset, even though they ranked first in the ACAC in errors (247) at the break. However, they also ranked fourth in points per set (14.7).
“If you don’t make those errors, you’re not going to get better at those errors,” said McKay.
“If you step back and try and wait for teams to make the errors, it’s not the process we have in mind. We’re going to be aggressive until the end,” said Goss.
However, McKay said the team was becoming more defensively-oriented the last few November games. They led the ACAC in digs (606) at the break.
Libero Andy Birchall, who has seen the floor more in his second year, had 148 digs through 12 games, leading the ACAC in both total digs and digs per set (3.22).
Birchall was one of three new Trojans singled out by McKay as having gradually set in with the team, along with middle blocker Brennen Willis and outside hitter Jarrett Noel.
“Willis is a little different set for [Goss] and Alex [Lyndon] to find, but we’re starting to find him well,” said McKay.
“Noel is doing an awesome job, he’s had a couple dips in a few games, but other than that he’s been high-percentage.
“Those guys are all starting to come through now into their own, but it was a little bit of a rough go in the start,” McKay stated.
Goss said that despite the new personnel and different expectations, the team had the “same mentality” as last season’s championship team.
The men’s volleyball team returns on Jan. 11 at home against the Ambrose University Lions.