May 18th, 2024

Kodiaks men’s volleyball team boasting a new look this season

By Dale Woodard on November 12, 2021.

Introducing the new-look Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s volleyball team, and not just necessarily because of all the new faces on board.

Of course, that’s part of it, but as they serve up their 2021-22 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season, the Kodiaks are boasting a new look on the floor as well.

That’s thanks to an entirely new offence the 2019 ACAC silver medallists will trot out as they host their home opener against the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings tonight at 6 p.m. at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.

“We’ve implemented a new offensive system,” said Kodiaks head coach Greg Gibos, whose team went 7-0 in the preseason.

“It’s a credit to our setters to be able to take 20 months worth of feedback and really start to develop new offensive ideas. I think that’ll be great for the long-term attitude of this program. I think if there’s one thing that has really shone through, it’s the system work we’ve done for 20 months when we couldn’t play other teams that is really starting to shine through and hopefully that’s on display (tonight).”

The COVID-19 pandemic took the 2020-21 ACAC season away from everyone, but it did allow the Kodiaks time to get cracking on their new playbook.

“We had to do a lot of one-on-one training when there were lockdowns,” said Gibos. “So we had to work individually with a lot of people and two-on-two and three-on-three.”

“So guys really got to work and develop those relationships together over that COVID year and then when we had everybody back on campus at the end of August we got to put all the pieces together and they all jumped in because they would see the results that were coming in from it right away.”

Among those new Kodiaks seeing the benefits of the new system is Barrhead product and middle Cameron Piers.

“I had to learn the pace of the college game just from high school, which is a big difference. And then on top of that I had to learn our offensive system, which is even harder. But it’s coming along. We had a whole year to practise, but it’s coming.”

He had to wait a full year for his ACAC rookie season, but being around his teammates in the pandemic-ravaged season proved helpful for Piers.

“I relied a lot on the guys on my team,” he said. “We watched a lot of film together on our practices. We were lucky enough to practise last year for most of the year, so that kept me on my feet. It was definitely tough, not going to class. But the people on the team are good people, so I built relationships with them.”

The Kodiaks are coming off a memorable 2019-2020 season in which the team captured the ACAC silver medal and their first trip to Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Nationals, which took place in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

“We graduated a pretty legacy-rich class after last year, so it’s been a really unique group and a really new group,” said Gibos. “We haven’t lost a preseason game. So I think for us to be as young as we are and to be able to beat some of those olders teams who are in our conference and the Pac West as well has been really big stepping stones for our program’s development and in the future years. We’ve had a really strong past and now this group is chasing that and trying to improve it. We really have a great energy about us and a really motivated group for the future.”

That future will be served at 6 p.m. tonight.

“We’re going to embrace those jitters,” said Gibos. “I think all that nervous energy is definitely going to be there. I think it would be naive to ignore it. We haven’t played in front of a big crowd in a long time and using that energy for positivity is what we’re really looking for this week and really allowing that to benefit the athlete rather than hindering them. When you look at it, it’s not putting pressure on yourself. It’s embracing that energy and using it for good and I think that’s what our group is really going to focus on this week.”

Though not quite sure what to expect, Piers is looking forward to the home opener.

“I have no idea, being a rookie, but I have butterflies thinking about it. It’s going to be very exciting.”

In addition to giving back on the court, Gibos noted his team is looking equally forward to getting back into the community after a year away.

“When you talk about cornerstones of our program, a lot of it is about leading and inspiring that youth generation,” he said. “It’s been so hard for a lot of our guys to not be able to be in gyms and to have people come watch and grow that next group of volleyball players in southern Alberta. So we’re so excited to get that going again. Competition aside, our biggest thing is really trying to be that beacon for the next generation and I think we’re all excited to have the energy back in the gym on Friday.”

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