THE Capilano University men's volleyball team brought out the brooms for an impressive sweep on the weekend, winning two straight matches against the fourth-ranked college team in the country.
The Blues scored back-to-back 3-2 home wins over Vancouver Island University Friday and Saturday, carrying on a four-game win streak that has vaulted them into a tie for third place in Pacwest play with an 8-6 record. The wins evened out the season series between the two teams as VIU, currently sitting second in the Pacwest with an 11-5 record, had swept Capilano at home when the two teams played in November.
You'd think, given the importance of wins, Capilano head coach Nathan Bennett would be gushing about his team. You'd be wrong or, at best, maybe only half right.
"The results are great but there is still a lot of work to be done," said Bennett following the weekend set. "I think we made some errors and we can definitely play better."
Bennett pointed out that on both nights the Blues earned 2-1 set leads but on each occasion they failed to seal the deal in the fourth and were forced to go the distance.
"When we're up 2-1 - I think it's a little bit of our culture here - we haven't learned how to put teams away yet, haven't learned how to win," he said. "We're still going through some growing pains."
Bennett did, however, admit that his Blues prepared well for their matchup against VIU to ultimately come away with two important wins.
"We looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year and we figured this was going to be a massive weekend, having VIU at home, and it turned out that way," he said. "Especially since we lost both matches at VIU, so it was really good retribution for us and it helped us in the standings. When you look at the standings going into provincials, being top-three is very helpful in our league."
With six weeks of play left before the provincial championships, playoff seeding is already taking shape. The Blues are hoping to either finish in the top two to earn a first round bye at provincials or place third so that their opening round match will be against a weaker opponent.
That such calculations are even a consideration is a big change for the Capilano men. The program has been in constant flux for the past five years with several changes in coaches and only one, very brief, playoff appearance. This is Bennett's first year at the helm but he's got no interest in dwelling on the results of the past.
"My expectation anytime we play or do anything is high," he said. "I really am not looking at the history of this group, I'm looking at what we have now. There is no history, as far as I'm concerned. We have a group that can do well at provincials and that's what I'm looking at. I'm not looking at anything previous to this year."
Bennett said that fourth year setter Ben Ricketts has done a good job of leading the team while third year right side hitter Garret LaValley has provided much of the muscle. LaValley showed his versatility on the weekend as well, filling in at middle blocker after injuries left the Blues with only one big man.
"He had a good match," said Bennett. "He's played left side and right side his whole career but he stepped into the middle and did a good job."
While the Blues still have room to grow, Bennett is happy with the way the team has developed so far this season. Capilano started the year 0-3 but have gone 8-3 since then.
"We're getting better every game," said Bennett. "We're doing an OK job of putting game plans together and making sure we execute those game plans, which is nice to see because that's a really difficult thing for young players - seeing a game plan and actually doing what you're supposed to do. It's hard to put paper onto court and I think the guys are doing a good job of that."
The Blues host the Columbia Bible College Bearcats for a pair of matches this Friday and Saturday before going on the road every week for the next month. Two more wins this weekend against 2-10 CBC would inch Capilano closer to their goal of a top-three finish, but Bennett said they can't afford to take the Bearcats lightly.
"CBC, they're a funny team," he said. "If we don't take them seriously, if we don't prepare properly then they could come and bite us. But I think if we're well prepared and ready for the games then we can do a good job against them."
Game times this weekend at the Capilano Sportsplex are 6 p.m. for the women and 8 p.m. for the men on both Friday and Saturday nights.