A whole lot has changed since last year at Columbia Bible College (CBC).
A new coach and only two returning players from last year’s fourth- place team means it’s unclear what to expect from the 2015-16 Bearcats men’s volleyball team.
After five stellar years on the court, including a national championship in 2011, Jason Warkentin is now the man on the sidelines. He said it will be a building year, but he’s excited to see what his team can produce.
“It’s a year of transition for us, not only from a coaching perspective for me, but also for the players. We’re building a foundation for the future,” he said.
Warkentin’s two returning players are third-year Curtis Stelzer and second-year Tanner Johnson. He said he will rely on the pair for leadership.
“They have the experience and know what it’s like to train four days a week and then play two games on the weekend,” he sad. “They’ll be able to help me transform these young athletes into college athletes, which is quite a bit different from high school.”
The Bearcats compiled a record of 14 wins and 11 losses in the regular season last year, and then beat the UFV Cascades in round one of the playoffs. CBC eventually lost the bronze medal game to Vancouver Island University at provincials.
Warkentin said it’s a big year for the program, as the school is hosting the Pacwest provincials and would like to win on home court. He said he’s fitting into his role as head coach.
“It’s a whole different perspective on the game,” he said. “As a player, you’re focused on your position whereas a coach has to dip his toes into each position and create a system that works for everyone. It keeps me around the game I love, and I also like the mentorship aspect. I’m helping to build guys both as volleyball players but also young men.”
The CBC women look to improve after a winless season in 2014-15.
They finished with a record of zero wins and 24 losses in Pacwest league play. Returning head coach Duncan Harrison will be leaning on players Katelyn Valgardson, Jodi Enns and Janelle Warkentin to lead them to victory.
Cascades men’s volleyball coach Kyle Donen is ready for year two at the helm of the program and is expecting improvements from last year’s fifth-place club.
Donen said a new offensive style is one of the bigger changes to the program for 2015-16.
“We’re going to be playing a faster and more aggressive style this year,” he said. “It was a change we wanted to do and needed to do for our group and I’ve been happy with the way we’ve been looking in pre-season.”
There are six new players on the Cascades and Donen said they’ve fit in well. He’ll also be leaning on established veterans to help guide the ship.
“Offensively, Joel Kleingletink had a huge year last year and I think it’ll be the same this year,” he said. “Adam Chaplin and Connor Nickel are also big pieces for us. But I think we have a pretty wide range of guys offensively that will help us out.”
Donen, who played post-secondary volleyball with the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack of the CIS, spent half a year as the assistant coach of the Cascades before taking over in 2014-15.
“It was a huge learning experience and it’s a big advantage for me going into this year,” he said. “I’m much more confident of what we’ll be able to do this year.”
The Cascades posted a record of seven wins and 13 losses last year and Donen said he wants to improve on that mark.
“Our goal is to improve from last year and it would be nice to at least get past the first round of the playoffs,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to be playing in the provincial final and then nationals, but I’d like to see us be a .500 team this year. The league is really tight but we need to play better on the road and steal a few more wins in other teams’ gyms.”
UFV opens with a traditional home and home with the Bearcats, and Donen said it’s the perfect way to start the Pacwest season.
“It’s a pretty big rivalry and almost equals the Vancouver Island rivalry [between VIU and Camosun College],” he said. “There’s lots of alumni from both teams that like to come around and cheer on both teams. Last year was a huge crowd on both nights and I expect to see the same this year.”
The UFV women look to improve on last year’s record of 13 wins and 11 losses. The Cascades finished fourth in the Pacwest but then lost in the first round of the playoffs.
New head coach Mike Gilray will be relying on setter Nicole Blandford, Rachel Funk and Monique Huber to lead his team to victory.
“I’m definitely excited for my first game with the team this year,” Gilray said. “It’s been great so far – I’ve loved it. It’s testing me as a coach.”
Pacwest volleyball action kicks off on Friday at CBC, with the women playing at 6 p.m. and the men at 8 p.m. Action shifts to UFV on Saturday, with the women hitting the court at 5 p.m. and the men at 7 p.m