By Kirk Jessome
After the transition season of joining the RSEQ conference, the Tigers men’s volleyball team is gearing up for a deep playoff run in the 2019-20 season.
The young roster is led offensively by seniors Jeffrey Walton and Graham Schmuland from the outside. Once Schmuland made the transition to outside hitter last season, the Tigers found more balance in their offensive attack with weapons on both sides and Walton and Schmuland were able to finish sixth and seventh in the conference in kills per set respectively.
Coming off of a breakout rookie campaign, Quinton Dowling was able to take over the starting setter role by the midway point of the season after consistently giving an impressive performance off the bench. His strong play has also earned him the title of team captain along with Walton and Schmuland this season.
Head coach Dan Ota spoke on the role of his captains in the upcoming season.
“Our captains have played key roles in establishing out team culture,” explained Ota. “It was identified as a major priority at the end of last season and I think we are considerably farther ahead of last year’s team in that respect.”
Ota was able to add young talent to each position of the roster over the course of the offseason, and the group of recruits will quickly be competing with returning players for regular playing time.
Joining the Tigers from the London Volleyball Club are outside hitter Michael Donovan and middle blocker Evan West. Donovan is a standout recruit for the Tigers after being named to the Canadian Youth National Team in 2018 and playing for the 2019 Team Ontario Elite Program. He is also the younger brother of three-time AUS all-star Matthew Donovan who played five seasons with the Tigers.
Filling in at the libero position is Callum Campbell. In 2017, Campbell was named to the U16 Team Canada Selects and has also had a successful beach career with Team Alberta.
When asked about the competition for playing time on the roster, Ota says he will not look at it from the perspective of what year the player is in, but in how the player has earned the time.
The Tigers finished last season with a 5-11 record in their first year as part of the RSEQ, which was good for a fourth-place ranking. The Tigers faced off against the top-ranked Laval and ended up falling to them in the semifinal series.
When Ota thinks of the things his team has improved upon over the course of the offseason, he says the focus on leadership has helped lay the foundation for the team to improve in other areas.
“The most tangible area that we have improved in is our serving,” says Ota. “We are way ahead of last year in that area with even more room for improvement.”
The Tigers will put those improvements to the test on October 25th when they face Montréal to open the regular season before their home opener on November 8th against Laval.
They host York this coming Sunday and Monday at Dalplex in their final pre-season matches of the year.