By: Kirk Jessome
It will be a season of major changes for the Tigers men’s volleyball team, as they are the only varsity team at Dalhousie that is no longer part of the AUS. The Tigers will now make the transition to regular and post-season play in the RSEQ conference.
The team will now have to adjust to a much heavier travel schedule, that will include back-to-back weekends of travelling between Sherbrooke and Laval in late November.
The last few seasons of the AUS era for the Tigers were led by Matthew Donovan, who’s departure leaves a lot of room for young players to pick up the slack on both sides of the ball. Donovan led the conference in total kills, as well as digs last season.
On a still fairly young roster, Jeffrey Walton will be a name to watch, the most frequent hitting option behind Donovan for the Tigers last season. Walton is an accurate hitter who is even more dangerous with his service game. He will have plenty of room to grow and improve as he transitions into this new role.
Another strong hitting option this season will be Harrison Callaghan, who did not play last season due to injury. He had a strong showing on the beach courts over the summer and looks ready to bring that offence to the hardwood for the Tigers.
AUS all-stars Graham Schmuland and Matt Woods look to build on solid seasons last year and will combine to be arguably the best middle tandem in the league this season.
One question mark position for the Tigers this season might be at setter with the departure of senior Adam Spragg, who led the conference in assists by a large margin and played in nearly every point for the Tigers last season.
Competing for that role are second-year Malachy Shannon and newcomer Quinton Dowling. It will have to be a quick learning curve for both setters if the Tigers are to be successful on offence.
The Tigers have the offensive weapons that are needed, but will the defence be able to step up? Donovan led the group in digs last season, and it will now be on second-year liberos Matthew Sandeson and Sam Gaudet to burden the load after splitting time in the pre-season.
The team finished with a 7-8 regular season record last year and were 4-5 against RSEQ teams in interlock play, showing their ability to step into this new conference and be successful quickly.
The young roster has the tools to grow and be successful, and now in his 20th season on the bench for the Tigers, head coach Dan Ota will look to help his team bring a new conference championship back to Halifax.
The Tigers will open up their season November 2nd, when they host Montreal for back-to-back matches.