By: Giovanni Siciliano
Red Deer, Alberta is hosting the CCAA National Men’s Volleyball Championship this year, which began yesterday. The three-day event kicked off with participating teams arriving in Red Deer all afternoon to unpack and inhabit the Holiday Inn Red Deer South.
Most of the schools, including Humber, had practice sessions available to them whenever they got settled. Those practices ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
The Hawks got right into the thick of things during their practice session. Outside hitter Rrezart Sadiku was thrilled to get things going right away. “It was good. We practiced for about an hour because we wanted to get the blood flowing again,” he said.
Getting work on the court and breaking a sweat isn’t the only part that goes into preparation for a big tournament like this. There are eight teams in the tournament from all over Canada, so Humber knows that every team they face will be elite. Sadiku added that studying, just like in school, is another major key. “We’ve done a lot of film and it’s the final eight, right? So every team is good. It’ll be fun.”
Speaking of fun, it’s a huge aspect the CCAA strives for all weekend long. The travel for most of these teams is long and gruelling, so the association tries to establish a positive atmosphere for everyone. It is part of why they run the CCAA awards banquet on the first day, after practices are complete. For Humber, a flight from Toronto to Calgary is roughly four hours and then there’s a one-hour bus ride to actually get into Red Deer, which is a small city with only a population that touches just over 100,000. The awards banquet is a perfect place for the team to relax, enjoy a good meal, and finally take in that tomorrow, the real games begin.
Humber’s first opponents are the Vancouver Island Mariners (VIU) tonight at 10 p.m. EST. The game will be played at the Canada Games Centre and can be watched online through the CCAA webcast here: https://www.acactv.ca/en/channel/ccaa
The VIU Mariners will be representing PACWEST (Pacific Western Athletic Association) at this year’s CCAA tournament. VIU captured their first conference title since 2007 this season after defeating the four-time defending champions, the Camosun Chargers. VIU finished fourth overall in their conference, but went on an absolute tear in the playoffs. Much like Humber tore through the OCAAs before falling to Fanshawe in the gold medal game, they know this game will be exciting.
Humber comes into the Nationals ranked at No. 5 in the country. Their strong play throughout the season and great tactics drawn up from head coach Wayne Wilkins is the reason why they are here and ranked inside the top five. It is a do or die, bracket style format so mistakes must be kept to a minimum. If the Hawks plan and execute accordingly, be sure to see them glide back into Pearson airport draped in gold around their necks.