At the first game of the CCAA men’s volleyball championship, the Humber Hawks defeated the Universite Sainte-Anne Dragons Wednesday evening.
Hawks fans enjoyed the first CCAA championship game on Humber’s turf since 2008, when the Hawks finished in seventh place. It was a convincing victory of three straight sets to zero for Humber (25-17, 25-15, and 25-21).
Humber last won the national championship in 2012, but Humber middle blocker Nazyr Francis, who spoke on behalf of his team, he said they haved high expectations for their performance in the championship.
“We’re home, so we’re expecting to win. We know, [with the] top eight teams in Canada, so no one’s going to be easy,” Francis said.
He credits the victory to his team playing the way they played throughout the provincial season, playing hard and staying focused.
“There’s really nothing we can do to change how we play now so we just have to keep focus and keep our foot on the gas pedal,” he said.
The Humber Hawks secured their spot in the nationals tournament as the 2022-23 OCAA champions on Feb. 25, 2023, when they defeated the Fanshawe College Falcons three sets to one.
Hawks’ assistant coach Mack Robertson said the team had a rough lead-up to a big finish to their OCAA provincial season.
“We finished well. It was a little of bit of a rocky start for us, not something we’re used to,” Robertson said. “We got going towards the end of the year, and we haven’t really looked back.”
He said team played going hard towards the end of the provincials.
“We talk a lot about the red zone, after 20. When we’re working towards that 25th point. We want to be perfect in the red zone — perfect after 20,” he said.
After a season of highlights, Robertson cited head coach Wayne Wilkins who celebrated his 400th win with the team this year.
There have also been setbacks. Last year, Humber lost a team captain, whom Robertson called their biggest leader. That made them change their identity, he said.
Highlights of the game included Humber setter Jake Gomes’ eight service aces. Gomes was awarded as the “Player of the Match” for that and his 25 assists.
On March 9, Humber face the Sherbrooke Volontaires after their comeback victory against the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners.
The Volontaires were down for the first two sets, with scores of 25-27 and 20-25. But they pulled back, winning the match three sets to two with the final three scores being 26-24, 26-24, and 15-12.
In the Reseau du sport étudiant du Quebec (RSEQ) provincial season, the Volontaires finished with a record of 11-5.
The Volontaires have another chance at a CCAA victory, having not won a CCAA gold since 1993. They did, however, win a bronze in 2020.
Volontaires left side Gregoire Mercies-Noel was awarded the “Player of the Match.” He earned this with 16 kills, six digs, three ace serves and three blocks.
“It was a really tough tournament,” said Volontaires head coach Jerome Ouellet, speaking on their performance in the RSEQ provincial season.
“We had a lot of opposition and we’re really proud to achieve what we did. So, we’re going forward, and we have big expectations for this tournament,” Ouellet said in a pre-game interview yesterday night.
Ouellet said they played well, but made mistakes, such as missing many serves.
“We missed some moments where we had to put pressure, so we have to be better at that starting tonight,” he said.
Lucas Torres was awarded as the “Player of the Match” for the Mariners. He earned this with 18 kills, four digs, two blocks and one ace serve.
The Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners had a record of 10-10 in the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) standings. As of their entrance to the CCAA championship, they stand in third place of the six PACWEST teams. They got their spot in nationals off a PACWEST wildcard, winning a bronze medal in 2019.
They also won two silvers, one in 2000 and another in 2007.
“We were a young group this year, we had eight new faces, and a lot of first years,” said Dr. Abe Avender, head coach of the VIU Mariners.
“It was a learning year, I would say, in a lot of ways, but to pull it off and get here is great,” he said.
Avender pointed to middle blocker Daniel Mascarenhas and outside hitter Lucas Torres as being exceptional players. Torres was the PACWEST “Rookie of the Year” and Mascarenhas was the PACWEST “Middle of the Year.”
“I just think the way we came together as a team was really great. Eight new bodies in the room, [and] that comradery and that. It was really great to see how well it developed and we’re a pretty tight crew now,” Avender said.
Emerson Cooke, a middle on the Mariners, described his team getting a run for their money in the final against the PACWEST champion, the Camosun Chargers.
“In the final, we played a strong Camosun team that’s pretty senior but we battled hard and were happy with our performance and it took us here, so we’re happy with that,” Cooke said.
He said his coach has not only helped with his volleyball skills, but also has helped him become a better person off the court.
“From first year to now, I think I’ve grown a lot. Abe runs a really good program. Abe supports us academically and athletically, so I think as a whole I’ve grown quite a bit,” he said.
Today, the Mariners face the Universite Sainte-Anne Dragons in Match 6 of the tournament.