Douglas digs its way to national silver

Like an onion, the layers of experience all add up to something valuable.

There’s also an occasional tear shed while peeling it.

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The Douglas College Royals ventured to their first Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships in a decade, and, when the dust settled, silver was what they earned.

While the gold was within their grasp against their B.C. final rival Vancouver Island University (VIU), falling 3-1 is being chalked up as something to build on, not to fester about.

“We came in and played some very good (volleyball). We were up against some very strong teams and for all our players it was a new experience,” remarked Douglas head coach Jeff Ross of the tournament in Grande Prairie, Alta. “There’s no doubt it was a valuable experience, and I’m pretty pleased with how we handled each challenge.”

The final was a rematch of the PacWest final just two weeks earlier, where the Royals picked up their first B.C. crown since 1995 with a 3-0 sweep of VIU. This time, the Islanders – who have medalled at five of the last seven nationals – came out gunning.

They took the first two sets, 25-19 and 25-20, before the New West squad countered with a 25-23 win to extend the match. VIU would close it out 25-16 for the national crown.

Despite a lot of knowledge and first-hand experience on their opponent, the fact that the core of the Mariners placed third at last year’s CCAA championships as a reference point was a major asset, said Ross.

“That kind of experience matters a lot in this (situation),” he said. “There was a lot going on; you’re getting accustomed to a new gym, surroundings and competition, … and I think by the end of it we just ran out of gas.”

In the final, fourth-year Vicky Schley racked up seven kills and 19 digs to earn the team’s Player of the Match award.

Digging themselves out of a hole wasn’t something new, at least for the tourney. In the semifinal, the Royals dropped the opening set 24-26 to Humber College before rebounding with three straight wins (25-16, 25-23, 25-23) to play for gold.

The semifinal was a monster game for second-year outside hitter Vania Oliveira, who mounted a one-woman wrecking crew with 20 kills, 21 digs and three blocks. The Brazillian, who would be the lone Royal among the All-Canadians announced during the championship, was in fine form throughout the tourney to pick up a first all-star team honour, alongside libero and co-captain Claudia Corneil.

Contributing 11 kills and 19 digs in the semifinal was freshman Caet McCorkell.

In the quarter-final, they silenced a hometown crowd by topping Grande Prairie 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 25-18), with Corneil recording 21 digs, Oliveira delivering 19 kills and Schley adding eight kills and 16 digs. Jane Kepler, behind seven kills and five digs, picked up the Player of the Match award.

Kepler would the named to the CCAA second all-star team for her performance on the week.

Douglas College would close out the tournament by being presented with the Exemplary Leadership Award.

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