Royals regain winning mojo

Depth is paying dividends for the Douglas College Royals women’s volleyball team.

The squad swept a home-and-away series with the Columbia Bible College Bearcats, taking the opener 3-0 on home court on Friday, then following it up with a hard-fought 3-1 decision in the Valley.

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It came after a week off, when the team worked at putting back-to-back losses to rival Vancouver Island University behind them.

It definitely wasn’t easy for the second-place Royals, as the last-place Bearcats looked nothing like a 1-19 club.

On Friday, nine different players registered kills as Douglas recorded decisions of 25-20, 25-19, 25-22 in the shutout. Leading virtually all through the first two sets, the Royals had to rally in the third game, erasing a 21-17 deficit.

Key points by first-year Grace Warkentin, including an ace, and a big block by Jacey Neid and Avneet Shokar turned the tables. Setter Abby Mitro would spark three straight points to cap the comeback. Emma Schill drove home nine, while Neid picked up eight kills.

The New West-based squad were without starters Vicki Schley and 2018 PacWest MVP Vania Oliveira in the opener, but Schley returned to the lineup on Saturday in the 3-1 (25-13, 25-17, 18-25, 25-21) victory.

Caet McCorkell picked up 13 kills and 14 digs, keeping her spot in the league’s top-five of kills with 154 on the season. Warkentin cashed in for 12 kills and eight digs on the day. Mitro recorded 34 assists.

The Royals, who at 14-6 trail undefeated Vancouver Island in the PacWest standings, remain entrenched at No. 3 in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s weekly rankings, with VIU sitting first overall.

Bouncing back after the sweep at the hands of the Mariners was an important sign. Although both games were close, the results reflected a trend. In the opening loss, Douglas began with a strong match, pushing Vancouver Island to 28-26, before dropping the next two sets 25-22 and 25-14. Schill set the pace with 13 kills, while Schley posted 14 digs and McCorkell added eight kills.

In the second game against the Mariners, the Royals came out slower, falling 25-15 in the opener, and 25-22 in the second set. They pushed it to an extra point before getting bumped 26-24. Oliveira put up 11 kills and 10 digs on the day.

The team, which scored silver at last year’s nationals, is building towards the provincial championship, which is slated to go in two weeks.

Douglas visits the University of the Fraser Valley on Thursday before hosting the Heat for a return match on Friday (6 p.m.). They wrap up the regular season with another home-and-home series, this time against Capilano University, Feb. 15 and 16.

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