Comox Valley volleyball players won gold and and bronze at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championships last week (March 12-14)
The Camosun Chargers men with second-year right side Rian Plante (Highland) of Comox won gold while the Chargers women with fifth-year outside Hilary Graham (Mark R. Isfeld) of Courtenay earned bronze.
The men captured their first gold medal in their eighth trip to the nationals (they won bronze in 2003 and 2009) while the women bagged bronze in their first appearance at the CCAA finals.
Both Camosun teams had to dig deep to hit the podium, as they fought back from adversity to earn their medals.
The men entered the eight-team tournament in Charlottetown, P.E.I. as the top seed. They rallied from being down two sets to one to defeat the Titans de Limoilou 3-2 (25-21, 22-25, 17-25, 25-20, 15-5) in the Saturday final.
The Chargers were down midway through the first set to the Quebec City squad before coming back to win 25-21. The Titans won the next sets 25-22 and 25-17, but the Chargers went on a late run to win the fourth set 25-20 then kept it going in the fifth set, winning 15-5 to earn the title.
The Chargers beat the defending-champion Red Deer Kings 3-2 14-25, 25-22, 30-8, 13-25, 15-13) in Friday’s semifinal after opening with a 3-0 victory over the host Holland College Hurricanes in Thursday’s quarter-final.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet that we are national champions,” Plante said. “It almost feels like September still when we were just starting to train for the upcoming season. My teammates and I have worked so hard all season and have battled through several injuries just to get to the national tournament, but to win it all…I still can’t describe the feeling.
“After winning our conference, we knew as a team that winning a national championship was possible. Going into the tournament we knew we would be playing some of our toughest matches of the season. Our semifinal match with Red Deer was a great match,” Plante said.
“They won the first set convincingly, which was a wake-up call for us, and we ended up taking the next two sets, including a 30-28 third set. The Kings came back with a convincing fourth set win. The fifth set was right down to the wire.
“We came out with a lot of energy and passion knowing that our goal of a championship came down to this one set. Alex Sadowski’s ace put us up 14-13 and we were able to force an attack wide to win,” said Plante.
“My teammates showed a lot of guts and heart that match, and from there we knew no matter what happens in the next match we were confident that we would end up on top. The championship match had just about everything you’d want in a national championship final,” Plante said.
“Limoilou had us in the first set for most of the way until we caught momentum and took the set. However that was quickly taken away as the Titans took the next two sets, then got themselves into position to potentially win.
“I don’t really recall what happened late in the fourth set but something sparked us and we elevated our play to force the fifth set, where we just kept rolling and didn’t look back,” Plante said.
The CCAA title capped a great year for Plante. “The entire season was a highlight for me. Coming into a starting position in my second season and being able to help my teammates, especially those that are graduating this year, end their careers with a provincial and national championship was simply amazing.
“I’ve never experienced a team so close together on and off the court, which I believe was the biggest key to our success this year. This was a special group of guy’s and I was very lucky to be apart of this amazing journey with them.”
Women Finish Third
The fourth-seed Camosun women defeated the sixth-seed Humber Hawks 3-1 (25-17, 24-26, 25-18, 25-17) on Saturday afternoon to win bronze at their eight-team tourney in Longueuil, Que. Chargers’ captain Graham was player of the game with 10 kills and 12 digs.
To qualify for the bronze game, the Chargers defeated the second-seed Vancouver Island University Mariners 3-2 (25-23, 25-19, 22-25, 22-25, 15-10) on Saturday morning.
The win avenged a loss to VIU in the PACWEST championship two weeks earlier. Mychaela Roelants of Comox is a first-year libero with the Mariners.
Camosun defeated Lynx d’Edouard-Montpetit 3-2 on March 13 and opened with a 3-1 loss to Wolves Grande Prairie on March 12.