Winnipeg – MB Yesterday we focused on the Women’s Volleyball National Championship, so we would be remiss if we don’t speak about the Men’s championship. The Men’s championship see a lot of the same foes returning to do battle once again. The Trinity Western Spartans will enter as the presumptive favourite, as defending champions three out of the last four years, as well as winning Canada West this year clinching them the number one seed. There are more teams than just the Spartans though and here is everything you need to know about the Quarterfinal matchups before 1st serve flies from Investors Group Athletic Centre in Winnipeg at 1:30pm/EST on Friday March 13th.
#1 Trinity Western Spartans vs #8 Manitoba Bisons
For the Trinity Western Spartans, being in this tournament must seem pre-ordained at this point. Three years out of the last four, the U Sports Mens Volleyball Championship trophy has taken residence in Langley and the Spartans must feel like they have good shot at a fourth trophy. The key piece for the Spartans is Eric Loeppky, With the 2nd most kills per set, the best hitting percentage and the 2nd most points per set in Canada West, Loeppky showed himself to be one of the best offensive volleyball players in Canada West. The Spartans should not have much trouble getting into the semi-finals but the play of Loeppky should be one to watch from then on.
For the Manitoba Bisons, 2019-2020 was not a year to remember, at 8-14 the Bisons missed the Canada West Playoffs, one game behind the Mount Royal Cougars. A young Bison squad, they played only one 5th year student but that 5th year proved to be a lifesaver. Kevin Negus finished 4th in Canada West in Kills per set, and 1st on the Bisons as well in Points and Service Aces per set. Whilst the odds for the Bisons are very long, upsets have happened but they will need Negus to be the MVP of the weekend to have a shot.
#2 Montreal Carabins vs #7 Laval Rouge et Or
The Two vs Seven Matchup sees a rematch of the RSEQ Final between Montreal and Laval. For Montreal, one title is all their program has, all the way back in 1970 but in 2020, the team for the 50th anniversary looks like it has a good shot at making it so their won’t be a 51st anniversary. After a 15-1 regular season and a take down of long time rival Laval in the RSEQ finals the Carabins are riding high. First team All-Star Gabriel Chancy will be a major factor for them, he led RSEQ in Assists per set with 11.10 and will be relied upon to distribute for his teammates. The Carabins have waited for 50 years for another title, but they may not have to wait much longer if the 2020 team has anything to say about it.
The Rouge et Or come into the National Championships in a weird position having not won the RSEQ title. In the last 28 years the Laval Rouge et Or have taken the RSEQ title 23 times but in 2020 they fell to their rivals the Montreal Carabins. Trying to return the favour in the Quarterfinals will be led by Nicholas Fortin who had 4.35 kills per set, the most of a single player on any team in the tournament. The Rouge et Or will see longtime head coach Paul Clement retire following this tournament and the veteran coach will look to add a 3rd National Gold to his collection with his team looking to send him off happily into the sunset.
#3 Queen’s Gaels vs #6 McMaster Marauders
The 3 vs 6 matchup sees a rematch of the a tightly contested Forsyth Cup semi-final that Queen’s took 3-2 on route to winning their second straight Forsyth Cup. Heading into their Quarterfinal Matchup the Gaels, just like all year, will rely on the play of star Zac Hutcheson. He finished 7th in the OUA in Kills per set and 2nd in Hitting percentage but was at his best to close the year as whilst Queen’s was winning it’s final 8 games on route to the championship, Hutcheson was averaging his best hitting percentage of the season. There are a lot of pieces to Queen’s that have brought them back to back provincial titles but if a 1st National title is in their hopes, Hutcheson will have to lead the way.
For the McMaster Marauders, that disappointing five set loss to Queen’s in the Forsyth Cup semi-final had to sting but they clearly didn’t let it get them down, sweeping Guelph in three sets the next night to earn the OUA Bronze Medal and a spot in Nationals. Two players lead the way for the Marauders, Nathan DelGuidice finished 2nd in the OUA with 3.83 kills per set whilst fellow outside hitter, 5th year Matt Passalent finished 3rd in the OUA in Hitting Percentage and 3rd in Service Aces per set. The Marauders lost a hard fought match against the Gaels and face them in the Quarterfinals in easily what could be the tightest matchup of the Quarterfinals.
#4 Alberta Golden Bears vs #5 Toronto Varsity Blues
For the Alberta Golden Bears enter the U Sports National Championship in search of their first title since 2015. Just like the Alberta Pandas have a nemesis in the Ryerson Rams who have thwarted their chances for a national title, it is almost the same for the Golden Bears as the Trinity Western Spartans have toppled them in the Canada West Final two of the last three years. Before they could face the Spartans though the Golden Bears need to get through the Toronto Varsity Blues. To do that they will have to rely on Canada West All-Stars Jackson Kennedy who finished 8th in Canada West in Kill per set at 3.24 and Max Elgert who finished 2nd in assists per set at 10.21. The Golden Bears will be in tough against a strong Varsity Blues Squad but if all goes right they should have a shot to get their first national title since 2015.
With a 17-1 record the Varsity Blues were far and away the strongest team in the OUA in 2019-2020. Up until the Forsyth Cup where the Queen’s Gaels pulled off an upset victory leaving the Blues reeling in 5th place heading into this weekend’s tournament. Sophmore Evan Falardeau lead the way for the Varsity Blues, finishing in the top 10 in the OUA in Kills, Points and Services Aces per set as well as hitting percentage. The Varsity Blues continue to search for the first National Title in Program history and if 2020 will have a chance to be their year Evan Falardeau will be a serious factor.