BRONCOS VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW
Both of the Olds College volleyball teams are fielding young crews this year and are building programs with an eye on the future. Here’s a look at the Broncos as they head into their regular season home opener against SAIT on Oct. 13.
WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL: COHESIVE, RAW AND ATHLETIC
This is head coach Landon Thompson’s second season leading the women’s crew, and he’s had the chance this year to recruit his own players. “Inheriting a new team Ö definitely had its challenges,” he said of last year’s roster, which was already in place when he arrived. “To be able to put your stamp on the program, to recruit your own athletes Ö that fit your mould as a coach, that’s kind of our first (step).”
“We look for height, athleticism, a charismatic smile ñ someone who just enjoys playing the game, enjoys coming to school every day, enjoys coming to the gym every day; someone who’s looking to make their teammates better,” he said.
Landon has recruited 11 rookies this season, adding to five returners, as he tries to put together a team that fits his vision.
“We’ve got some inexperienced players, so the positive way to look at that is they have no bad habits,” said Thompson. “We’re able to mould them into the athletes that we want them to be.”
Thompson said that at the outset the team is very cohesive. “Whenever we were able to recruit a player, they were added to Ö all the social media groups that the girls have,” he said. “So when we joined up in August at our pre-season training camp, they seemed like they were all best friends immediately.”
In addition, he said while the team is young, they are raw and athletic.
“When we win a point back, it’s an impressive point,” he added. “It shows you what we’re capable of, our potential.”
Thompson said he is particularly excited about blue chip prospect Avery Gammel from Kelowna, B.C.
“She could be playing for any university in the country, and she chose to come to Olds College because of the equine science program,” he said. The Broncos also have returner Clara Serrano from Calgary, who won Olds College Rookie of the Year last season, in addition to being nominated for conference awards.
“She was the runner-up for the Libero of the Year in the south, and rookie of the year in the south,” said Thompson. “So we expect big things from her.”
The team is coming off a losing season in one of the toughest divisions in the country, grabbing only seven wins of 24 last year, and of course Thompson says they are looking for a better record.
“Our goal definitely is to improve on our win total from last season and always to make the conference championships,” he said.
While their local rival is Red Deer College, Thompson said Briercrest College is a benchmark for them, not only athletically, but in terms of team dynamics.
“Briercrest has something special,” he said. “They play as a family and that’s something that we aspire to at Olds College ñ to be there for each other and to have a bond amongst teammates that is unbreakable, regardless of the situation that we are facing.”
MEN’S VOLLEYBALL: TURNING BOYS INTO MEN
Like on the women’s side, second-year head coach Darryl Noel also inherited a team last year and had to work with what he was given.
“I took over the week before (club) provincials and I had only one player signed at that time,” he said. “We managed to floor a team last year, but inevitably we weren’t very strong and it showed in the results.”
The Broncos only managed to win a single set all season, going 0-24, and finishing last in the standings. But Noel is working to rebuild the team and looking to the future.
“Our record has not been stellar, so it’s hard to get people to come in who want to help rebuild or rebrand a program,” he said. “We literally need to build from the ground up.”
“Basically, I was recruiting not only for this year, but I was recruiting for the future,” he said. “I wanted young people that were going to grow with our program.”
“We’re trying to build the foundation and that’s where this youth movement has come from,” said Noel. “They want to play volleyball, they ultimately want to win and they want to get better, and I think they will. And that’s what I’m most excited about.”
ROSTER The men’s side only has three returners this year, and age-wise, Noel’s rookies are young, with 11 of his 15 players under 18. But they bring other assets.
“This year we wanted to get taller; we did. We wanted to get a little more skilled; we did,” he said. Still, with such a young roster, Noel says it will take time to instill the right work ethic, and learn to minimize mistakes.
“It’s doing the little things right all the time” said Noel. “They can’t take any time off ñ it’s hard work. And they’re learning that the more work they put in, the more success they’re going to have.”
Noel said most of his crew is recruited from club volleyball, which while competitive, gives young players room to make mistakes.
“This is a little bit different Ö someone made reference to calling it boys playing against men,” said Noel. “There is a little bit of that. We’re playing against people and players who have been playing for three, four years. “The only way to get that experience is to get that experience year over year,” he added. But what they lack in experience, Noel says they make up for in enthusiasm. “It’s fun to watch them, because they just want to win. And they are doing whatever they can to make sure that they get those points.” He said. “Sometimes you just gotta let your horses run.”
As on the women’s side, the south division of the ACAC is one of the toughest in the country, and Noel says they’ve got their work cut out for them. Still, with last year’s shutout, even a single match win would be an improvement
“But I want more; the players want more,” said Noel. “Their goal is to push everybody to the limit and, you know what, spirit willing to make playoffs.
“I’m optimistic that we are going to catch some people a little sleepy, because of the season we came off last year.”