Humber Hawks, Douglas Royals to meet in gold medal game at CCAA volleyball nationals
Douglas Royals 3, Columbia Bearcats 1
The Douglas Royals are gritty like sandpaper, and eventually, they'll wear you down.
The Columbia Bible College Bearcats knew that already – they're extremely familiar with the Royals, since the two teams are rivals in B.C.'s PacWest conference.
On Friday evening, they were on the receiving end of one of Douglas's typical tough-as-nails performances. The Royals overcame the emotion of the Bearcats' home crowd to earn a four-set win in the semifinals of the CCAA men's volleyball nationals.
"They're a really steady team – they don't make a lot of mistakes, and they put a lot of pressure on us," Bearcats head coach Rocky Olfert noted afterward. "We knew going in, and we talked about it. We said, 'The team that makes the most mistakes isn't going to be successful.' And that was the case today."
In the aftermath, the Bearcats were left to lament their missed opportunities.
They led 21-17 in the first set, but Douglas rallied to win 25-23. After the Bearcats clawed back to even terms with a 25-19 triumph in the second set, the Royals responded by pulling away down the stretch in the third to win 25-22.
In the fourth, CBC was up 22-21, but Douglas scored four of the next six points to punch their ticket to the national final.
Along the way, the Royals established themselves as the finest defensive team in the tourney, refusing to give up on balls and rarely making unforced errors.
"We talk about valuing the ball, playing together and understanding situations," Royals coach Brad Hudson said, reflecting on his team's mental toughness. "We've always tried to help our guys develop a depth of knowledge where they understand situations and how to play in them, as opposed to playing the magnitude of the moment."
Jeff Taylor and Sam Shaw led the Royals with 16 and 11 kills, respectively. CBC's Will Quiring pounded down a match-high 24 kills, while Matt Kaminski chipped in with 13.
The match really could have gone either way, particularly if the Bearcats had been able to cut down on their service errors. Hudson thought that Douglas-CBC should have been the final.
"It's a shame we ended up on the same side of the draw at nationals – it probably shouldn't have been that way if it (the draw) was done properly," he asserted.
"We've got a quality group of character kids, and they know what kind of character is on the other side of the net as well. We've always talked about how much respect we have for Rocky and how much respect we have for their kids, and we love playing here because their fans are always great."
The Royals face the top-seeded Humber Hawks in the final at 7 p.m. on Saturday. It's a fascinating match-up – Humber superstar Terrel Bramwell carries his team, while Douglas boasts a sum-is-greater-than-our-parts mentality.
If any team has a chance to slow down Bramwell, it's the Royals.
"Nobody seems to have done it so far," Hudson noted with a wry grin. "But the reality of the way we play, though, is it's not one guy trying to do it. It'll be all six of our guys on the floor, and we'll try to see if we can slow him down.
"He's player of the year, but again, we feel we have some pretty good players, too."
The Bearcats, meanwhile, must regroup to battle their way through the back side of the draw. They play Quebec champion Outaouais at 12 p.m. on Saturday, with the winner moving on to the bronze medal game at 5 p.m.
Humber Hawks 3, Red Deer Kings 1
The Red Deer Kings had their national championship hopes snuffed by the force of nature that is Terrel Bramwell.
Bramwell, the Humber Hawks' dynamic outside hitter and the national player of the year, racked up an eye-popping 41 kills to lead his team to a four-set win over the Kings in the semifinals of the CCAA men's volleyball championships at Columbia Bible College on Friday evening.
"They came in as the No. 1 seed for a reason, and Terrel is player of the year for a reason," Kings head coach Aaron Schula said afterward. "He was pretty ridiculous today.
"But we were right there with them. We just seemed to tighten up after 20 (points), and they didn't."
Indeed, the difference in the game was the Hawks' ability to finish off sets.
In the first, Red Deer served for the set at 24-23, but Humber battled back to win 27-25.
In the second, the Kings led by a comfortable 24-21 margin, only to watch the Hawks rally to tie it at 24. But Red Deer settled down and took it 26-24.
The wheels fell off for the Kings midway through the third set, as Humber dominated at the net and won handily, 25-16.
The Kings appeared poised to force a fifth set, leading 22-19 in the fourth, but the Hawks finished strong once again, winning 26-24 to punch their ticket to the final.
In the 33-year history of the national tournament, only one other Ontario school – Sheridan College in 1983 – has ever won the title.
"We talked about that before coming out here, so it's been in our head," said Bramwell, who had 70 total attack attempts and finished with a .386 hitting percentage. "We're honoured to be here, and we're going to work hard and hopefully take it back to Ontario."
Andre Brown, Humber's 6'9" middle, also had a big game, notching seven kills and nine blocks, while Cam Fletcher chipped in with eight kills.
Quentin Schmidt paced the Kings with 18 kills, while Tucker Leinweber had 12.
Bramwell said his team had to show plenty of hustle and heart to dispatch the Kings.
"We knew it would be our toughest match of the season, but we pulled through," he said.
In Saturday's gold medal match, Humber will face the winner of Friday's late semifinal featuring the host Columbia Bearcats and the Douglas Royals. Red Deer, meanwhile, has to regroup for a 10 a.m. start against the Mount Royal Cougars. The winner of that game advances to the bronze medal match.
It's a tough turnaround, but Schula said his squad will be plenty motivated.
"With Mount Royal beating us pretty handily in the conference championships, we should be able to come out with a chip on our shoulder," he noted.