Vikings reload for run at volleyball provincials
University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings Lyndon Varga (17) and Connor Sinnamon (14) against the Concordia University Thunder during Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men's volleyball action in Camrose, Alta. on Friday October 20, 2017. Concordia won 3-0, but the Vikings bounced back the next night winning 3-2 in Edmonton. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian/Postmedia Network
The University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings men’s volleyball team reloaded this summer with the intent to take a step forward, not backward.
The Vikings have brought in a number of rookies to fill out their ranks this year and all most of them should play a big role in their efforts to make amends for a heart-breaking elimination through a tie-breaker.
They opened their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season on the weekend with a split with the Concordia University Thunder. They lost their home opener 3-0 (25-13, 25-23, 25-15) on Friday, but bounced back with a 3-2 (25-22, 26-28, 21-25, 25-21, 15-13) win on Saturday.
That ability to respond from the loss and being down in a match they won will be critical to meeting their goals this season.
“They fought, they showed some grit, so that was very encouraging,” said head coach Stephen Leggitt, who said he is learning how to just let the players play and not over coach during a match. “I think practice is where I now have to give 150 pieces of information and they have to digest it and then we go from there.”
The Vikings have several first-year players that will make an impact this season including libero Thomas Zimmerman, power Owen Murray, right side Jesse Weber and left side Connor Sinnamon. The later made a big first impression with a match-high 20 kills in Saturday’s win.
“He’s getting it,” said Leggitt. “He’s still makes the rookie mistakes, the stuff that worked in high school and in club, doesn’t work at this level because the players on the other side are that much better.”
Sinnamon is a Red Deer native, home to one of the top college volleyball programs in the country, but he was drawn to Augustana due to reports from friends who previously went to the school.
He is also a bit of a wild card, at six-foot-one, he is a little undersized at the left side position, but makes up for it with his leaping ability.
“I like to think I’m good at getting high and hitting off-hand, because I’ve always had to do that in my club and in high school career,” said Sinnamon, who went to Notre Dame in Red Deer. “I’ve always been on the shorter side compared to some guys at six-foot-five and six-foot0six, so that is going to help me out against some bigger players in the ACAC.”
The Vikings are also returning some solid veterans, giving Leggitt the rare strength of depth this season. Lyndon Varga and Duncan McDonald in the middle and last year’s kills leader Rhys Fingas on the left side and setter Logan Pasishnik back for a fourth season. Pasishnik may have taken the biggest step forward any of them, as he turns into a true floor general and distributor, learning to set for a play rather than forcing the ball to a specific player.
“It’s hard, because in high school or club you have maybe one or two main, go-to guys,” said Leggitt. “Last year we had one or two go-to guys in the middle … this year you’ve got five guys so you don’t have to force it this year.”
The Vikings will also be looking to him and the other veterans to lead their younger teammates forward.
“This is my second year as an older vet, so I kind of know what to expect and how to teach the kids new aspect of a high-level game,” said Pasishnik, 21. “It’s more of a mental change than a physical change … at the high school level you took it game-by-game, but at the ACAC level you have to take each game as a learning experience and take those experiences to better improve yourself. You have to be mentally stronger, you can’t let things bother you too much.”
The Vikings are at Grande Prairie Regional College to play the Wolves in both of their games this weekend.
Women sweep Thunder
The Vikings women swept the Thunder in their two games, winning 3-1 (25-17, 18-25, 25-16, 25-17) on Friday and 3-0 () on Saturday.
Rae Metrunec led Augustana with 12 kills seven digs and two blocks on Friday while Brooke Lindmark had nine kills and 16 kills, and Karen Wagner, two kills, 30 assists and three service aces.
On Saturday, Metrunec had a team-high nine hills and three aces, Wagner had 21 assists, and Amy Mulder had 18 digs and four assists.
It also marked the return of Greg Ryan to the sideline as the athletic director earned his first victory as head coach of the women’s team.
“(Concordia) is a much better team than they were last year, they’re significantly better … they dug a ton of balls and served really hard and put us in trouble all night long, so that’s a good win,” said Ryan.