Brock Volleyball focuses on positives as programs develop

The Brock men’s volleyball team returned to action for their first varsity season since 2000-01. This year they were led by head coach Doug Hanes. The women, under head coach Dale Ann Melnick, were coming off of a down year, after finishing the 2015-16 season with a 2-17 record.

In their first game back in over a decade, the men took on Trent University, a team also playing in their inaugural season. Brock got off to a great start, taking down the men in green three sets to one.

Despite a surprising upset victory over the Guelph Gryphons, who were ranked eighth nationally at the time of the match, the Badgers managed to finish the season with just three wins. They finished last in their division with a 3-14 record.

The Badgers had some breakout stars despite their last place finish. Timmy Spisar proved that he is capable of competing with the OUA’s top players, as he finished 11th in all the OUA by averaging 2.71 kills per set.

Setter Marcelo Correa was also an extremely important asset that the Badgers will look to build around in the upcoming seasons. Correa finished 10th in the OUA by averaging 7.52 assists per set. Correa was the recipient of the inaugural Jason Pearson Memorial Scholarship.

Brock has been able to sign three big recruits so far, including top recruit Logan House. House, a 6’5” left side is considered to be the top left side hitter in Ontario in this recruiting class. The other recruits Hanes and his coaching staff have been able to sign are 6’6” Christopher Chapman and Max Manlow, both of whom are middles.

The top recruits will be crucial for Hanes and his staff to begin to build around, as they have already said goodbye to five seniors — Matt Ragogna, John Elgersma, Calvin Fast, Adrian Yuen and Damon Currie.

Ragogna’s leadership on the court will be missed, but he believes this program is well on the right track of being a competitive OUA team.

“All this team needs to continue to build is experience. We have a strong core coming back, great recruits coming in, and a great culture beginning to develop,” Ragogna said. “The more experience they get, the more calm, relaxed, and competitive they will be come crunch time. Just the opportunity that was available to be in the varsity atmosphere is great for the team.”

After back to back victories over Lakehead to open up their regular season, the women looked like they were flying out of the gate en route to an improved season. A six game losing streak, however, seemed to take away all of the confidence the team had gathered in the opening weekend.

Ultimately, the Badgers would finish with a 5-14 record, which put them on the outside of the playoffs. Brock finished fifth in their division, missing out on the final playoff spot by four games.

Fifth year Libero, Karlinna O’Leary, was terrific for the Badgers. Luckily for Melnick and her coaching staff, rookie Julia Balatbat was solid as well, and gives the team a strong Libero for next season with O’Leary graduating.

“Julia Balabat had a great mentor with Karlinna O’Leary and will do a very good job taking over the full time Libero role.” said women’s head coach Dale Ann Melnick.

Laura Condotta and Renee Helmer were also great for the Badgers up front, and will both be returning next season. Maddie Brown, another bright spot in the lineup, will be joining O’Leary, so the team will need to replace her. Melnick has brought in recruit Grace Pyatt, a middle blocker, who should help with some size up front.

Hannah Davenhill was solid once again in her second year as the team’s setter. She split time with rookie Emily Armstrong, who also proved she is ready for a starting role. Both finished with similar numbers, as Armstrong averaged 5.69 assists per set, while Davenhill averaged 5.24.

The only other departure from the team is middle blocker Lauren Kniewasser, so with a relatively small graduating class, Melnick and her staff will only need to bring in a few players to help strengthen the team.

The playing time of Brianna Hamilton increased over the course of the season, and Melnick is very excited as to what she will be able to do next year.

“Bri Hamilton was just getting started with season ending,” Melnick said. “There is no question her fifth year will be unstoppable.  She is such a competitor and force on the court.  She’ll spend time this spring and summer rowing and getting ready for the fall rowing season before returning to our court again in late fall.”

Melnick believes that the improvement her team made over the course of the season is exciting, and attributes their struggles to just being a young team.

“When you are young, it sometimes take a bit to get into a groove,” Melnick said. “So with some hard work and commitment to strength and conditioning over the summer months, we should be in a good spot for success.”

The tough news for the Badgers, however, is that all three graduating players played key roles for the team, and after just improving by two wins this season, they have a long way to go to get back into the playoffs.

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