*This is a College of the Rockies Avalanche weekend preview that I wrote for the Cranbrook Townsman.*
The Avs certainly won’t be suffering from a lack of motivation this weekend.
“For our morale, it’s important to win. It’s our last home games, so it’s important to win. And for the standings, it’s important to win,” said College of the Rockies women’s volleyball player Adriel Goodman on their upcoming matches against the UFV Cascades.
“They all coincide nicely [and] we don’t have to decide which one we want more.”
For Goodman, this weekend is the last time she’ll play volleyball for COTR in Cranbrook. The second-year outside hitter is one of 10 members of the Avalanche who will be moving on from the program after this season.
“We’re going to be emotional, but I think that’s a good thing,” Goodman said. “It doesn’t have to be upsetting. The emotion is going to be the excitement of playing our last game. We don’t want to lose.”
The women’s team alone has seven departing players. Along with Goodman, the list of women playing in their final matches includes third-year middle blocker Taylor Forster, second-year middle Kennedy Koop, third-year outside hitter Mackenzie Morey, second-year setters Sarah Wood and Miranda Myndio, and second-year libero Kolby Fenton.
“This is kind of the end of the last wave because at the school here they only offer two and three-year programs,” Wood said of the large turnover after this season. “We’re just at the [point] where everyone is finishing up their program here.”
While she admits that it’s sad, Wood also sees the final matches at home as a great opportunity to show the town their best play.
“I definitely want to leave it all on the floor for this last home game,” she said. “Come out swinging — or for me, setting hard — playing defense and I really want to work on blocking for this last home game.”
While the Avs are already assured a place in the postseason, at 8-14 and in fifth-place, a chance to earn a few points against the 7-13 sixth-place Cascades could help substantially in defending their provincial title.
“If we win both games this weekend, it puts us in a really good place,” Goodman said. “I think that [would be] good for our confidence [too].”
In their two previous road matches against UFV, the Avs split their series, losing 3-0 before pulling off a big 3-1 win on the final day of a long road trip. This time, COTR have even more to play for.
“I think that emotion is going to drive us this weekend because a lot of us are leaving,” Wood said. “It’s the last time that we’re going to step on our home court and compete together as a unit.”
On the men’s side, while there are fewer departures, they are nonetheless significant.
The Avs will be losing two middle blockers — third-year captain Spencer Janzen and second-year Duncan Sutherland — and also key sophomore outside hitter Patrik Toze.
“Hopefully, [our emotions] will give us a boost,” said Sutherland. “I know I’ll definitely go out there and try harder. I know everyone, whether they are coming back or not, it’s the last game in Cranbrook, so we’re going to give it our best shot.”
For the men, it’s all about the fans.
“It’s been a fun year, kind of hard [with] a lot of injuries but UFV’s a good team so hopefully people will come out and there’ll be a good game,” Sutherland continued. “We’ll give them a show.”
Although the second-place Cascades (15-5) are 12 points ahead of the Avs (9-13), COTR split their last series with UFV and feel good that the pressure is on their opponents instead of them.
“Objective number one is coming into provincials with a good record,” said Toze. “This weekend is probably one of the biggest, if not THE biggest weekend of the season. A couple of wins, or even one win, would put us in a very good spot going into provincials.”
The Avs are currently in the fifth playoff spot, but could end up anywhere from sixth to fourth place after the season wraps up.
Janzen is optimistic that the final weekend will be a success.
“You can never predict, but the momentum [and] the energy that the guys have right now is pretty good,” the captain said. “We’re all really wishing we can go out there and give them a good show.”
Due to weather conditions, the games scheduled on Friday, February 10 have been moved to Saturday, February 11 at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Saturday’s games have been rescheduled for Sunday, February 12 at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
These times are subject to change if weather conditions continue, fans should keep an eye on the Avalanche’s website and social media to be sure of dates and times.
The PACWEST Provincial championship playoffs will take place from February 23 to 25 at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.