By Kirk Jessome
It was a roller coaster of a season for the men’s volleyball team, but it was a learning experience for a very young roster.
Being one of only two seniors on the roster, Matthew Donovan was key for the Tigers on both offence and defence.
Donovan led the conference in total kills by a large margin, as well as finishing tenth in the country in kills per set. He also finished the regular season tied for the lead in service aces. On the defensive side of the ball, Donovan led the conference in total digs.
Donovan’s efforts led to him being named the AUS MVP, as well as being named a U SPORTS second team all-Canadian.
The other senior on the team was fourth-year setter Adam Spragg, who led the league in assists, and finished in the top-15 in the country in assists per set.
The season got off to a rough start in the first half, going into the break with a 2-4 record, including dropping two of three matchups to conference rival UNB.
The Tigers went into the break and refocused, improving their defensive play, with some important contributions from first year players.
Freshman libero Mathieu Lavoie finished directly behind Donovan in total digs and digs per set, which helped him earn AUS rookie of the year and a spot on the U SPORTS all-rookie team.
The Tigers rebounded in the second half with a winning record of 5-4, to finish with an overall record of 7-8, which was good for first in the AUS conference and home-court advantage heading into the playoffs against UNB.
In game one of the best-of-three AUS championship series, the Tigers were able to take the match in a very tight three-set sweep over the Varsity Reds. The Tigers service game, and offensive structure made the difference in the win, picking up 10 more assists and 11 more kills than their opponent in the close match with the majority of the attacks coming from Donovan and Jeffrey Walton.
The second game started out in similar fashion, with the Tigers taking the first set 26-24, but the close sets did not turn in their favour for the rest of the match. After dropping three-straight sets, the series was knotted up at one set a piece.
The winner takes all game three was another tough one for the Tigers. After dropping the first set, the team fought to get a lead coming out of the technical break, and they tied the match up at one set apiece.
They couldn’t repeat it, however, as UNB took the next two sets to win their third straight championship.
The Tigers look ahead to next season with continued development of their young team. Their future looks bright with the offence in the hands of hitters like Kobe Shannon, Walton and Graham Schmuland moving into their third seasons.