May 25th, 2024

Kodiaks take the first step

By Dale Woodard on November 13, 2021.

The Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s volleyball team has just grown up a bit.

Kicking off their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season opener Friday night at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium, the Kodiaks were defeated 3-1 by the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings.

The Kodiaks took the first set 25-20, but the Kings regrouped and rattled off 25-21, 25-19 and 25-22 set wins as Lethbridge starts the season at 0-1, heading to Red Deer for the rematch Sunday.

“I think what we saw tonight was we’re a really young team and that (Red Deer is) a really old team,” said Kodiaks head coach Greg Gibos. “One of the things old teams do is they protect the ball really well and in sets two, three and four I felt like they protected the ball better than we did. We made a couple of careless errors in the middle of those sets and that allowed them to separate. When you’re up 12-6 it’s pretty comfortable and you can start to play pretty loose volleyball. So tonight, I think the biggest thing was error management on our side. We made some young guy mistakes and we’re going to learn from it. You can’t fault the guys effort tonight. I thought every guy gave it every ounce they had tonight. That’s probably one of the best teams in the country on the other side of the net and we slugged it out for a good hour-and-a-half here tonight.”

Playing in front of their home crowd for the first since early 2020, the Kodiaks jumped out to the early lead after their 25-20 first set win.

“That first set we were really amped up and ready to go,” said Kodiaks outside Nolan Moes, who had six kills and nine digs in Friday’s game. “It was our first game in forever. We just grinded. We had lots of energy and played our game and came out on top in the first one.”

But the defending ACAC champion Kings – who won their provincial title in the Val Matteotti Gymnasium almost two years ago – grabbed control of the last three sets on their way to the road win.

“Those last couple of sets we just gave them a little bit of a run in the middle of the game that made them separate,” said Moes. “We stuck with them that whole game, so if we limit that run we’re in a good spot.”

Jackson Gaehring hit double digits in kills with 10 and Shaye Wall added eight. Wall also had two service aces.

Malcolm Fisher had 11 digs and Jeremiah Bohnert and Liam Frost added eight each.

Bohnert also had three blocked shots, while Cameron Piers had two.

The Kodiaks head to Red Deer Sunday looking to salvage a split with the Kings. Game time is 3 p.m.

“We just have to keep that energy up,” said Moes. “It died off just a little at the end. In the first set we had lots (of energy) and it did us well. We’ll just keep playing our game and doing what we can to be the best team we can be.”

The season is one game old, but Gibos pointed to some lessons already learned for his young crew.

“Most of them start off with how to protect the ball and how to be good, efficient volleyball players and really when those points start to matter, digging down and finding your best shot. Tonight I think they were just a little bit better than us in those situations.”

The Kodiaks head coach said his team will take tonight’s home opening energy north to Red Deer Sunday.

That, and continue the early-season growth.

“I think a lot of guys took some great strides tonight,” said Gibos. “Shaye Wall, the guy is 18-year-olds playing against 25-year-olds on the other side of the net. So for him to come in and do what he did tonight is great growth for him. I think he’ll take that forever and know he can compete at the highest level in a great atmosphere.

“I think you got to see some of our younger guys develop leadership. Nolan is really starting to see what it’s like to be a leader at the ACAC level and he’s only 20-years old. I think what you’re seeing is some of those guys coming into their own and it’s only upwards for our program from here.”

After losing the ACAC gold medal game to the Kings in early 2020 on the Kodiaks’ home turf, Moes noted the rivalry between the two teams is alive and well.

“The rivalry was still there, 100 percent,” said Moes “Lots of chirping and stuff. That’s what we live for and that’s how we play our best game. We liked it.”

In the women’s game, the Queens swept the Kodiaks 3-0 (25-14, 25-23, 26-24).

The women’s rematch Sunday in Red Deer is at 5 p.m.

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