By: Nathan Cooper
This week’s Flashback Friday features the 2005-06 men’s volleyball team.
Back Row (L-R): Kirk Furlong (head trainer), Andrew Marsh (strength & conditioning), Jeff Bohan, Adam Hotchkiss, Niklas Rademacher, Jesse Mighton, Erik Montgomery, Meaghan MacInnis (assistant trainer), Dan Ota (head coach)
Front Row (L-R): Dan Casey, Chris Dunlop, Paul Richer, Jeff Weiler, Scott Townsend, Jean-Francis Best, Dan Murray.
Missing: Dan Whiting, Danielle Poulos (mental skills), Phil Brown (assistant coach), Aaron Nutting (assistant coach)
Heading into the 2005-06 season, the Tigers men’s volleyball team had one goal in mind, improving on last year’s disappointing seventh place finish at nationals.
The Tigers team historically has done very well in AUS men’s volleyball, claiming the AUS title 30 times since 1981. In more recent years, the AUS men’s volleyball league has been deflated to just the Tigers, the Reds and the Sea-Hawks. It was just announced this year, that the Memorial Sea-Hawks will no longer have a men’s volleyball club. Therefore, both the Tigers and the Reds are now competing in The Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ).
The 2005-06 team had a strong core of players from the previous season returning to the team.
As October rolled around, it was time for the Tigers first preseason play of the campaign. Dalhousie was hosting the first tournament of the year, the Adidas Collegiate Challenge. The first three games for the Tigers were played against the 2004-05 CIS bronze medalist Manitoba Bisons.
Although the Bisons swept the three-match tour, the Tigers were very competitive, putting themselves in a position to win each match.
The Tigers were now set to travel the University of Manitoba for their next exhibition tournament. In a round-robin draw, the Tigers were able to defeat York, McMaster and Toronto, while losing to Winnipeg and Manitoba. Though the Tigers five preseason defeats equaled the total losses of the previous season, the squad looked to be rounding into competitive shape as league play was about to begin.
UNB and Memorial once again looked to be the main Atlantic competition for the Tigers. The Tigers regular season began with an interlock in Montréal. The Tigers were set to play Laval, McGill, Montréal and Sherbrooke during the weekend.
The Tigers began the season with two 3-0 victories over Laval and McGill. They were then defeated by Montréal 3-1. The Tigers closed out the interlock with a 3-0 victory over Sherbrooke, to start off the regular season with a 3-1 record.
After a four-week break from training in December, the Tigers re-grouped and travelled west to participate in an exhibition tournament at the University of Saskatchewan. Injuries and illness plagued the squad as they hobbled to a third-place finish. The highlight of the tournament was a five-set win over defending NCAA champions, Pepperdine Waves.
League play resumed as the second term began. The Tigers hosted the second interlock tournament of the year. This tournament was a highlight of some of the best volleyball that the Tigers played all year. The Tigers swept all four Québec teams, only dropping one set in the process.
The Dalhousie squad finished a perfect 6-0 against AUS opponents in the second term. The Tigers finished the regular season with a 19-1 record against both Atlantic and Québec competition.
In the AUS final, the Tigers faced a scrappy UNB team. Though the Tigers were tested in the match, they were able to perform at key points and eventually went on to win in straight-sets. This victory earned the team their 20th consecutive conference title and 27th trip to nationals.
The Tigers went into the McMaster-held national championships as the number five seed overall. The first game was to be played against fourth-ranked Saskatchewan. The Tigers squad were able to outperform the Huskies in every aspect of the match and swept the Huskies in straight sets.
The victory over the Huskies earned the Tigers a semi-final spot against top-ranked Alberta. After the Tigers prevailed in the first set, national team star Dallas Soonias took over the match for the Golden Bears and the Tigers were defeated in the fourth set.
A victory over Manitoba in their final game would provide the Tigers with a bronze-medal finish. The match was a see-saw and filled with action. The Tigers were eventually out-matched by the Bisons and had to settle for a fourth-place finish.
The Tigers had tremendous fan support throughout the nationals at McMaster. Jeff Weiler added numerous awards to his collection, including CIS second team all-Canadian and AUS All-star.
Jesse Mighton, Niklas Rademacher and Scott Townsend were also awarded AUS First-team All-Star. Rademacher was named AUS MVP and Dan Ota was awarded AUS Coach of the Year.