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Dinos men’s volleyball team hungry for Canada West title

By Isaac Celis, September 20 2016 —

Boasting a 2015–16 season that took them all the way to the Canada West final four, the Dinos men’s volleyball team looks to repeat that success and push themselves even further in the upcoming 2016–17 season.

This year, the team looks to construct a new identity. The team has 14 returning players, including three fifth-years — Alex Cook will be the team’s starting setter, with Curtis Stockton taking starting rightside and Sean Martin in the starting middle position. The trio look to replace some of the talented veterans lost at the end of last season including setter Jackson Marris and strong hitters Brendan Visser and Connor Frehlich.

The players stepping into the new senior positions have some big shoes to fill, especially when it comes to leadership.

“They’ve got to lead the dressing room and take the positives that we got out of our success a year ago and build on that,” head coach Rod Durrant said. “We have a lot of good pieces of the puzzle and we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead of us.”

Last year, the Dinos men’s
volleyball program finished in the top three in the Canada West. But it was a tough end to the successful year. After a hard-fought playoff loss to the Trinity Western Spartans — a team they dominated throughout the regular season — the Dinos lost out on the opportunity to play in the
CIS championships.

But despite the bittersweet end to the season, the team finished with a record of 18–6. The result culminated in a Canada West Coach of the Year and CIS Coach of the Year award for Durrant.

“At the end of day, it’s a team award. I ended up getting recognized because our team really achieved a lot last year,” Durrant said.

Along with returning players comes new blood in the form of transfers and rookies straight out of high school. The new players will have to make up for some of the roles vacated by the graduated players and play catch-up to keep up with the level of professionalism expected by Durrant.

“Everyone’s got a role to play,” Durrant said. “We like to consider everyone equal. The difference is some are going to play more than others. But everyone has a voice. Everyone has a part on this team or they wouldn’t be here.”

Fifth-year senior and starting setter Alex Cook will only be one piece of this puzzle this year — but his role is integral to the team’s success.

“The setter is often synonymous with the quarterback of the team,” Cook said. “What I want to do is put the guys in the best position to hit the ball to score points. So that’s my job, to really run the offence, be a big communicator and a leader. We’re looking to start right where we left off, not take any steps back and be at a level where we can be 18–6 [or] hopefully better this year.”

Cook — in his last year of his Bachelor’s degree in engineering — will also be under pressure to perform academically. But that pressure is nothing new for the veteran.

“As you go through you learn how to time manage, so when you’re at practice, you’re at practice focusing there,” Cook said. “It’s tough, but it’s manageable once you figure it out.”

While the veterans seem to have balancing their athletic game with the busy life of a student figured out, newer members of the team will have to adapt to the speed of CIS-level volleyball and the high expectations of academic success.

“I’m very nervous actually,” said Lethbridge College transfer Tim Taylor. “I start next week but I think it’s gonna be good. I’m pretty good with my time management and the guys are really good at keeping everyone in check, making sure we’re doing what we’re doing. Professionalism is a big part of the Dinos program and that reflects on and off the court.”

The Dinos boast stellar support from their athletic trainers, academic staff and facilities.

“I love the facilities we have here,” said fifth-year veteran Curtis Stockton. “I can book twice a week to go to therapy and that’s huge for being able to perform at your peak especially since we’re training as much as we are. [It’s] one of the other pieces of the puzzle, I guess.”

With plenty of support surrounding them, the Dinos look poised to take the season by storm. And while training at times may seem like playful fun to the casual observer, it’s all business for the Dinos squad.

“We believe we’re one of the top teams in Canada West, as well as CIS,” said Durrant. “Now it’s [about] doing the right thing, creating that culture, the right work ethic and the right commitment. It’s [about] putting it all together on a day to day basis.”

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