The College of the Rockies Avalanche open the 2020 PACWEST Volleyball Championships on Thursday, as the Men’s Avalanche are set to clash with the Camosun College Chargers while the Women’s Avalanche will battle the University of Fraser Valley Cascades.
Both teams are in New Westminster this week for the 2020 PACWEST Volleyball Championships, hosted by Douglas College.
The Men’s Avalanche enter the 2020 PACWEST Championship seeking their first Conference title. As the fifth seed in the PACWEST, the Avalanche match up with the Camosun College Chargers.
Finishing their season with an 8-16 record, the Avalanche have won four of their last six matches, with all four of those matches being straight-set victories. The Chargers finished the year at 13-11 and will prove to be a formidable opponent in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
“We haven’t seen them since the first semester but we split four matches with them. All four were really tight, we won both at home in Cranbrook, they won both in Victoria, they’ve been banged up a little bit, we’re a little bit different than the last time they played as well,” Cisco Farrero told MyEastKootenayNow.com, Head Coach of the Men’s Avalanche. “It should be a really close match, they’re going to be good, we’re going to have to play our best game of the year, but I like our chances.”
Farrero said the team’s hot streak to end the semester bodes well for their confidence and their ability to advance.
“We’ve proven to ourselves throughout January and February that we’re good and that we have to play a certain way. We understand the keys to success really no matter who we are playing against, it’s all about our ball control. We have some size in the middle and it’s really important for us to be able to control the ball to be able to use that size.”
That size includes 13 of 15 players standing over 6’0″, while seven players are above 6’4″. Among those players is Gustavo Bertolli who leads all active Avalanche players with 194 kills and is second on the team with 173 digs. Featuring nine rookies on the roster, the Avalanche are a very young team as Bradley Spurge and Alex Avery make the only true veterans with three or more years experience while Bertolli, Quinn Grist, Hudson Goertz, and Reece Wilson are back for their second season with the team. Despite their age, Farrero believes this is their best team in the last three years.
“Our record is the same as last year but we’re playing a lot better heading into our Conference Championship this year than we were last season,” said Farrero. “We’re a lot more balanced and we have a lot of high impact players even though we’re young, we have some big-time recruits that are really starting to pay off, some in their second year, some in their first year and we’re really excited for our talent to shine through.”
The Avalanche take on the Camosun College Chargers at 8:00 pm on Thursday, with the winner advancing to Friday’s semifinal against the top-seeded Douglas College Royals.
More: 2020 PACWEST Volleyball Championship Schedule/Results
The Women’s Avalanche roll into the PACWEST Championship hoping to claim their second title and capture that lightning in a bottle from their historic run in 2016, which earned the College of the Rockies their first-ever PACWEST tite. Like the Men’s Avalanche, the Women’s Volleyball team enters the tournament as the fifth seed and will go head-to-head with the fourth-seeded University of Fraser Valley Cascades (UFV) in their opening game.
Losing three of their last four games, the Avalanche aren’t necessarily entering the tournament with a hot hand but were victors in three of their four games before their recent slump. Putting up a respectable 10-14 record, the Avalanche were in a difficult Women’s Confernece this season that saw the VIU Mariners finish a perfect 24-0, while the second-seeded Camosun College Chargers were 15-9, followed by the 13-11 Douglas College Royals, and 11-13 UFV Cascades.
Bryan Fraser, Head Coach of the Women’s Avalanche said their standing was unique this year because of the strength of the Conference, but believe they have a great chance to move on to the semifinals with their quarterfinal match against UFV.
“We just played them two weeks ago, they’re very fresh in our minds and I think we match up really well against them,” Fraser told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “We’re playing at a pretty high level right now so we’re just kind of trying to tweak a few small things and hopefully on Thursday we’ll bring our best.”
The Avalanche split their regular season finale with the Cascades, dropping the first match in five sets (25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 24-26, 28-26) but picking up a four-set victory (22-25, 27-25, 25-19, 25-23) the following day.
Down to just 10 players on their active roster after starting the season with 13, the Avalanche are led by Taylor Whittall, Ecaterina (Kate) Arabadji, and Megan Clark. Whittall leads the entire PACWEST with 288 kills, while Arabadji is third in the Conference with 237. Clark is third in the Conference with 266 digs, while Arabadji is fifth in the entire PACWEST with 236 digs to lead the Avalanche’s defensive front.
Fraser said all three have been immensely important all season long given the team’s short bench and their prolonged playing time.
“For me, it’s even more impressive because we haven’t really had any subs to make so they’ve been really just playing every game and having to deal with tough sets, tough games, there’s really no break for them. Taylor has been unbelievable offensively. Kate – her offense is really good but the biggest thing is her serve receive and her defense for us and then Megan really stepped up this year and controls the backcourt really well.”
The Women’s Avalanche begin their quest for their second PACWEST Championship on Thursday at 12:30 pm against the University of Fraser Vallery Cascades, where the winner will move on to the semifinals to battle the undefeated Vancouver Island University Mariners.
More: 2020 PACWEST Volleyball Championship Schedule/Results