By Woodard, Dale on February 27, 2020.
For the past two years, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s volleyball team has been taking steps in the right direction.
This weekend, they’ll get the chance to take a giant leap, and on home court no less.
The Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference provincial championship gets served up starting today at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.
The hosts headline opening day tonight at 8 p.m. when they take on the Lakeland Rustlers. The winner of the ACAC banner will earn a trip to Fredericton, New Brunswick for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship March 11-14.
“That was our goal right from the beginning of the year,” said Kodiaks veteran left side and middle Michael Hummel, whose team earned the silver medal at last year’s ACAC championship following a 3-0 loss to the Fort McMurray Keyano College Huskies.
“We build on every year. Two years ago we won our quarter-final and last year we won the semifinal. Now we are working to win that final and earn the first berth for Lethbridge College at nationals. That was our goal at the beginning and we are working towards that.”
The Kodiaks started putting their best foot forward at the start of the season on their way to a 20-4 record that gives them the number-one seed at this weekend’s provincials.
They clinched that ranking with a 3-0 sweep of the Briercrest Clippers last weekend.
Now they hope to build on last year’s ACAC silver medal.
“They want their last game to be out in Fredericton at Saint Thomas University,” said Kodiaks head coach Greg Gibos. “So they are going to try desperately to get there.”
They’ll get to attempt that at home.
“It means a lot, it’s very special,” said Kodiaks right side Carter Hansen, who will graduate as the ACAC’s all-time leader in kills and digs. “Anytime you get to host provincials is awesome, especially when it’s my last year and it extends my time that I get to play in front of my family and friends.”
The Kodiaks earned the top seed, but the rest of the field are no slouches. The Red Deer Kings also bring a 20-4 record in as the second seed in the South. They’ll be joined by the 17-7 SAIT Trojans and the 14-10 Briercrest Clippers.
In the North, the top-ranked NAIT Ooks – also 20-4 – come in having finished the regular season on a 9-1 clip.
Last year’s defending ACAC champion Huskies were 19-5, while the Kings University Eagles finished 16-8 and the Rustlers went 11-13.
“We are just going to lay it all out on the court and hopefully results come our way,” added Hummel.” The crowd will be fuller and everybody will be buzzing. The playoffs are a different kind of animal, so we will hopefully find a new gear and make our way through and hopefully get to that final.”
The Eagles and Kings start today at 1 p.m., followed by the Clippers and Ooks at 3 p.m.
The Trojans and Huskies take the court at 6 p.m. before the Kodiaks and Rustlers close out the night.
“It is going to be an absolute zoo,” said Gibos. “Lethbridge has supported this team so much over the last couple of years. Who would’ve thought we would have a sellout for a volleyball game in the middle of November with a Western Hockey League game and (football) provincials? I think it’s going to be a loud place. Everybody wants this group to do well and I can’t wait for them to be recognized for their efforts.”
“I feel like it’s going to be crazy,” added Hansen. “We have lots of good, loyal fans and it’s going to be fun. We’ve all been talking about it all year at the end when there’s provincials. The crowd has been crazy and we’re excited for it.”
Action resumes Friday with the consolation games at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and the semifinals following at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The consolation final is Saturday at 1 p.m.
The bronze medal game is at 3 p.m., followed by the gold medal game at 5:30 p.m.
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter