Brock’s volleyball teams made history this past Friday as they played their first double header at home since 2001. With the men competing as a varsity team for the first time since the 2000-01 season, it was the first time that both the women and men were able to play in front of a home crowd on the same night. The men got off to a good start in their first season back as they defeated Trent University in their opening game. After a tough loss against one of the OUA’s best teams, the McMaster Marauders, in which the Badgers showed many signs of competitiveness, they were set to battle the Guelph Gryphons in their first game back on Brock’s campus. The Gryphons came into the matchup with an overall record of 5-1, and they had been on a roll of late, winning their previous five matches. The Gryphons were ranked number 10 in the U Sports rankings from November 22.
Brock rallied around the home crowd in the first set as they got off to a great start. The Badgers would hold a late lead against the Gryphons before Guelph would ultimately battle back from five points down to tie it. It was Brock, however, that would get the last point. Thanks to a fantastic block by Marcelo Correa, the Badgers would take set one 27-25. Set two would be a back and forth match, but the Gryphons would pull ahead and take it 25-21. The Gryphons then proved they are worthy of their national ranking, taking down Brock 25-18 and 25-16 in sets three and four respectively to win the matchup 3-1.
Timmy Spisar led the way for the Badgers as he finished with 12 kills and eight digs. Matt Ragogna added 10 kills and four digs and Correa had an outstanding 34 assists to go along with eight digs.
Brock head coach, Doug Hanes, talked about the feeling of being a part of the men’s first season back and playing the first home game in front of Brock fans.
“I am honoured to be the person that was selected to start a brand new program at Brock University. It was an opportunity that does not happen very often in anyone’s life,” Hanes said. “I have been lucky to have some very good people join me in this adventure as assistant coaches who include Wayne Felker, Andrew Bridgeman and Rich Lianga, who is a Brock Alumnus. As well, Aidan Gilhula, who has signed on as our head statistician and videographer. As a group they have all added information and skills to our group which has been very important to the evolution of our group.”
After dropping their first matchup of the weekend, the Badgers hosted the Waterloo Warriors on Saturday. Coming into the game, the Warriors were 2-4 on the season. After dropping a couple of games against tough opponents, the Badgers were looking to even up their overall record.
Waterloo made no mistakes, however, as they bounced back from a 3-0 defeat to McMaster the previous night and took the first set against Brock 25-23. The sets were extremely close, but Brock failed to pull ahead in any of them, dropping the second and third sets by a score of 25-21 both times. Brock was led by John Elgersma, who finished with 13 kills and two digs.
The Badgers fell to 1-3 on the season, but they have yet to look uncompetitive in any matches, even against nationally ranked teams such as the Marauders and Gryphons.
Even without any national program players, which is very common across other programs in the OUA, Brock has proven that they can compete with any team in the OUA, and that is why a 1-3 record has Hanes feeling very disappointed. He believes that the team still has what it takes to make the playoffs.
“They have come such a long way that my expectations of the whole group is very high and I intend to make the playoffs in our first year, even though we may seem to be a long-shot,” said Hanes. “I have tried to instill in my players an expectation of good performances and to expect to win no matter who we play.”
With a very inexperienced roster, the Badgers have a roster full of players that have the potential to develop into special talents. Hanes believes that players such as Elgersma have what it takes to grow into a national team product, as the 6’9” right side hitter is only beginning to realize his potential. With other players such as Correa, Spisar and Ragogna that are developing throughout the season, the Badgers should only improve. Hanes is confident that with time, Brock will build themselves into a powerhouse as they begin to attract high school talent to beef up their roster in the coming years.
The women also took on the Gryphons and the Warriors as they were looking to bounce back from a couple straight losses against Trent and McMaster. Brock entered play with a 2-2 record. The Badgers and Gryphons went back to back in each set, but Guelph got the final point in each of first three sets securing a 3-0 win. The scores were 25-20, 25-21 and 25-20. Maddie Dedecker led the way for Guelph with 10 kills and 12 digs while Alexandra Curran had 30 assists. For Brock, Renee Helmer had eight kills and 12 digs and Tori Carroll had nine kills. Libero Karlinna O’Leary was unbelievable defensively with 18 digs.
For the second matchup of the weekend on Saturday, the Badgers once again found themselves down after they lost the first set 25-17 against Waterloo. After a very exciting, back and forth match in the second set, Brock came up with their first set victory of the weekend, winning 28-26. They were unable to keep their momentum, however, as Waterloo would take the third and fourth sets 25-17 and 25-19 respectively.
Claire Mackenzie was outstanding for the Warriors in their victory, as she totalled 18 kills and eight digs. Helmer led the way for the Badgers once again, picking up 11 kills and eight digs.
After a couple of tough matchups for the women’s team, head coach Dale Melnick was very optimistic that her team will be able to bounce back in the new year.
“The way I look at it, we need to continue to work hard in practice and develop strategies that will transfer over into a match. Our season is truly just beginning so I have no doubt we will bounce back when we return to season in January.” Melnick said.
After finishing their 2016 part of the OUA schedule, the Badgers will continue their seasons on the road against the Guelph Gryphons on January 7. The women will play at 12:00 p.m., and the men will get started again
at 2:00 p.m.