Humber Hawks win national men's volleyball title, Cougars claw past host Bearcats for bronze
Humber Hawks 3, Douglas Royals 1
In the fourth set of the CCAA men's volleyball championship game on Saturday evening, fans of the Douglas Royals serenaded Terrel Bramwell with an "overrated" chant.
In reality, the Humber Hawks superstar was anything but, and everyone in the gym at Columbia Bible College – Douglas fans included – knew it.
Bramwell, the national player of the year, was simply spectacular, hammering down a mind-boggling 45 kills to lead his Etobicoke, Ont. squad to victory in four sets (25-21, 30-28, 21-25, 26-24).
In winning the title, the Hawks carved out a piece of history. In the 33-year history of the national tournament, only one other Ontario school – Sheridan College in 1983 – had ever won the championship.
Humber head coach Wayne Wilkins said the Ontario drought was something he and his team talked about frequently throughout the season, and they were determined to end it.
"The most amazing thing is, they never shied away from the pressure," Wilkins said. "We told them going in that being seeded No. 1 was going to be tough – everyone's coming after you. But you need to embrace it and use it as motivation, and they did."
The Royals made the Hawks earn everything they got on Saturday. The second-seeded squad from New Westminster came in having established themselves as the best defensive team in the tournament, and perhaps the toughest mentally, in the wake of tough four-set wins over the Sherbrooke Volontaires and the host CBC Bearcats.
Humber matched Douglas's grit, though.
After taking the first set, they appeared to have things well in hand in the second, leading 23-18. But the Royals came roaring back to tie it 23-23. On one point, they dug two scorching kills from Bramwell. On another, they stuffed him twice.
Douglas would survive five set points, but the Hawks eventually clawed out a thrilling 30-28 win.
The Royals were the better team in the third set, and in the fourth, they had set point leading 24-23. But Humber scored the next three points to clinch the championship.
"I'm just at a loss for words right now, because I'm just so happy," Bramwell said after his team posed for photos with the trophy and banner. "All the things we've been through with the team, training and working hard, and we finally accomplished our goal. It's crazy."
To beat a team as well-rounded and tough as Douglas, Humber needed contributions beyond Bramwell. Libero Aleks Inveiss had an incredible outing, registering 17 digs, and he picked up player of the game honours. Cam Fletcher and Andre Brown had eight kills apiece.
For the Royals, Jeff Taylor led the way with 19 kills, and Andrew Robson chipped in with 10.
Bramwell was named tournament MVP, and he said the "overrated" heckles didn't get under his skin.
"I'm used to that," said Bramwell, who took 82 swings and finished with a .378 hitting percentage. "I'm a strong mental player, so I don't let the crowd bug me. I used it to my advantage. I let it motivate me to prove them wrong."
The tournament's first team all-stars included Inveiss and Brown of Humber; Douglas's Taylor; Will Quiring of the Bearcats; Colton deMan of the Mount Royal Cougars; and Nicolas Hoag of Sherbrooke.
Second team all-stars were Douglas setter Rex Fenton; Red Deer Kings teammates Matt Saunders and Quentin Schmidt; CBC's Matt Kaminski; Dan Durham of Mount Royal; and Hugo Lachance-Berthel of the Outaouais Griffons.
The host CBC Bearcats won the fair play award.
Mount Royal Cougars 3, Columbia Bearcats 0
The Mount Royal Cougars ended their tenure in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association with a podium finish at men's volleyball nationals.
The Cougars, who are making the jump from the college ranks to Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) next season, knocked off the host Columbia Bible College Bearcats in straight sets in the bronze medal game at nationals on Saturday evening.
"It's a perfect way for us to go out," Mount Royal coach Sean Sky enthused afterward. "We've got a young team and we challenged them, and they responded in the best way possible."
The Bearcats had beaten the Calgary-based Cougars in an epic five-set thriller in the quarter-finals on Thursday, but Mount Royal battled through the back side of the draw to get to the bronze medal game. They made no mistake in their second crack at CBC, winning 25-20, 25-20, 25-18.
Mount Royal's hitting percentage was .325, compared to just .178 for CBC. Colton deMan led the way for the Cougars with 12 kills, while Jordan Parkin chipped in with eight kills and eight digs.
Sophomore outside hitter Will Quiring paced the Bearcats with 14 kills, while fifth-year right side Matt Kaminski closed out his college career with nine kills and six digs.
"CBC is such a good team," Sky said. "Obviously we'd like to have our quarter-final back against them, but they played fantastic.
"For both matches today, we had four first-year players on the floor at all times. So it bodes well for our future."
The Bearcats lost to the Douglas Royals in a hard-fought semifinal on Friday, then beat Outaouais in four sets on Saturday morning to get to the third-place game. But they seemed worn out mentally, and never really made Mount Royal sweat.
"We were excited to play in the bronze medal game, but we just looked a little flat and not like ourselves," CBC head coach Rocky Olfert said.
"That loss against Douglas yesterday really hurt us, and I'm not sure we really fully recovered from that. I'm proud of these guys. They battled hard, but mentally, I don't think we were up to the challenge against Mount Royal today. We had too many unforced errors, more than last time we played them, and that was the difference."
Mount Royal's Colton deMan swings against Bearcats blockers Jason Warkentin and Danny Grant. (Jordan Nielsen photo)