June 16th, 2024

Kodiaks men’s volleyball team serves up big comeback versus Briercrest

By Dale Woodard on February 12, 2022.

The Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s volleyball team simply had fun.

They got an even more joyous result.

Hosting the nationally second-ranked Briercrest Clippers in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference play Thursday night at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium, the Kodiaks battled back from a 2-0 set deficit to rattle off three straight and post a 3-2 win.

After dropping the first two sets 25-18 and 25-19, Lethbridge posted 25-23 set wins in the third and fourth sets before putting the game in the books with another two-point margin of victory in the fifth set.

The win improves the Kodiaks to 9-5 for sole possession of third place in the ACAC South Division, two points behind the 10-3 Clippers.

“Both of the first two sets were really close,” said Kodiaks’ head coach Greg Gibos. “We kind of stayed in (what) we call the red zone near the end of the set.

“In sets three, four and five you could see it was a common belief and a really strong confidence in our athletes. They knew they could perform the skills when it mattered the most and that confidence and genuine joy of playing your sport really started to shine for us.”

From there, the Kodiaks prevailed in three close sets.

“I think that was the biggest difference,” said Gibos. “We stopped looking at it as ‘Hey, what are we not doing?’ and turned it into ‘This is what we can do and this is what we can control. Let’s just go out and have some fun.’ For us, I think that’s the mindset that’s powerful, when we find that pure enjoyment and really build confidence in one another.”

Nolan Moes led the Kodiaks with 23 kills and six digs, while Michael Kindley added nine kills and 10 digs.

Malcolm Fisher had 18 digs. Jeremiah Bohnert and Moes each had five blocked shots.

“Briercrest was the number-two ranked team in the country coming into the evening,” said Gibos. “So we knew we were going to see a strong opponent. For us, the season has been so much focus on growing as a group.

“In sets one and two we saw moments of really good volleyball, two really strong teams going at each other. In sets three, four and five we were able to elevate our game. It turned into probably two of the best teams in the country going head-to-head. The scoreline reflected that. It was just two really strong volleyball programs going to battle on a Thursday night. We were happy to be on the other side of that five-setter, but it was a really high intense, high energy, high execution match. I think it was a really good display of volleyball, that’s for sure.”

It also sets them up nicely for the task that beckons this afternoon when the South Division-leading and 13th nationally-ranked Red Deer Polytechnic Kings (11-4) roll into the Val Matteotti Gymnasium at 4 p.m., four points ahead of Lethbridge.

The women’s game kicks off the afternoon at 2 p.m. as the 8-5, second place Kodiaks take on the 15-0 Queens, ranked second in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association.

With the playoffs right around the corner, a huge test awaits this afternoon with the always strong Red Deer program.

“Any time you get to play Red Deer you know you’re going to have to play your best in order for it to be a competitive match,” said Gibos. “For us, we know that program and that team is going to push us to be better than we were the day before. That’s the biggest for us to focus on, (it’s) another good chance to show the amount of growth we’ve had in the last two years of the program since the pandemic started and just starting to build that confidence as we head into those meaningful and playoff season.”

The Kings swept the Kodiaks 2-0 in the ACAC weekend opener – winning six sets to one – back in Oct. 12 and 14.

“We know we’re going to get their best and I think if you ask both Red Deer and us, we’re probably both not happy with our record,” said Gibos. “We’ve both suffered some major injuries through the course of the year and then in the second half we both dealt with COVID. So I know they’re finally healthy and they’re really going to want to set a statement that they’re still the number one team in the country and if you want to win a provincial championship, it’s going to go through Red Deer. All we can do is give them everything we’ve got and I’ve got the utmost confidence the boys are going to come ready to play (today) and put on a really good show. Hopefully we can secure that ‘W’ and keep the train rolling.”

Fans are permitted to attend Kodiaks homes games this weekend. Restrictions remain in place, including limited capacity and a masking policy.

Food and drink will be allowed inside the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.

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