All Aboard For Alberta As Men's Volleyball Bursts Into The New Year
After winning their second consecutive Western Canadian Open Championship and posting a conference high 8-2 record through the first half of the 2016-17 MCAC season, Men's Volleyball are about to tackle the Alberta Collegiate Athletics Conference for three interconference matches before they reintroduce themselves to an MCAC court for the final half of their regular season campaign.
Tomorrow night the Blazers are in Edmonton to take on the 9-5 King's Eagles. On Saturday, CMU travels to Lloydminster for a morning meeting with the 5-9 Lakeland Rustlers followed by an evening matchup with the 7-7 Augustana Vikings in Camrose. Three best of five matches in two days against tough opponents has third year head coach Don Dulder very excited.
"This will be a great way to start for us," said Dulder, "we will get in some tough exhibition games, get everyone back on the court and challenged by some very good competition, and then get right back into MCAC games where we are really going to have to be mentally-focussed to be able to be return to the level of play were were at in November. We're in first place now, so everyone really wants to beat us."
The start of the second half of the season also marks the return to the CMU rotation of 2015-16 team Rookie of the Year John Nieckarz (pictured left). Sidelined since early November with a calf injury, the 6'5 product of Winman Volleyball Club is eager to get back on the court and help his team win matches.
"It's hard to watch your teammates from the sidelines when you're injured," said Nieckarz, "of course, you're happy that they are winning and playing well, but you really want to be part of what is going on. I can't wait to hop back in with the team and we really want to get back to the level that we were playing at last semester."
Though the competitions in Alberta are only exhibition in nature, the Blazers do have something to prove on behalf of their conference, the MCAC. Unaffiliated with a national sport conference, the MCAC continues to discuss plans to join the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Conference; the national association to which all three Alberta teams that CMU will battle this weekend belong through their affiiliation with the ACAC.
"The ACAC is a high level, based on what we saw last year when we visited King's," Dulder explains, "It forces us to raise our level to compete with them and it also give us some different looks when we play teams that we don't see regularly though our MCAC season."
The turnover will be tight for the Blazers, who touchdown at James Richardson Airport on Sunday afternoon and are scheduled to begin the second half of their MCAC regular season at the University of Winnipeg on Sunday evening against the College Wesmen at 7:30pm.
"Sunday is a really big conference match for us, maybe the biggest of the season, so it's going to be a big challenge that we'll have to be ready for; getting right off a plane and stepping onto the court to play U of W, who always play well at the Duckworth Centre," added Neickarz, "it definitely won't be a challenge that any of us are used to."
The College Wesmen sit third with a record of 5-5 but did pull off a five set upset of the Blazers back on November 13th when the two teams last met for a date at the Duckworth Centre.