The 2016-17 Golden Shield volleyball season is fast approaching, and fans will soon notice that there are a number of new players on the men’s team. Coach Tom Sutton says there is an air of optimism that goes beyond the annual “slate is wiped clean” early season enthusiasm.
“It’s a little different make-up than the last couple of years,” he said after practice last week. “We’re quite big on the outside.” In fact, with twin brothers Lucas and Isaac Claveau, both of who tower around the 6’4” mark, and local product Ryan Marcotte, the Golden Shield will not be giving up valuable inches at the net to very many opponents.
“Our middles are about the same size as our outside hitters, so we’re a little undersized in the middles, but the outsides always help out on the block. I think it will work out pretty well.” Even the reality of breaking in a pair of relatively inexperienced setters has done little to dampen Sutton’s spirits.
“The setters (Jérémie Lachapelle/Alex Beaton) are working hard and doing a really good job,” noted Sutton. “They had a few things to accomplish, but they’re really coming along well.” With only a pair of pre-season tournaments as a barometer, the still active beach volleyball player has targeted a few key areas with regular season play right around the corner.
“Because we are big on the outside, getting that stable block and setting up a good defense around the block is key,” said Sutton. “The new players are not afraid to get in the way of the ball. The ball does not hit the ground very often.”
“We’re a little scrappy and the skill is getting better, but even if it’s not a perfect dig, the ball does not hit the ground. I’m happy with the defensive intensity.” Still, he has been around long enough to understand that transitioning from secondary school teams in markets that do not boast provincial powerhouses, and making the leap to OCAA competition, involves something of a steep learning curve in some areas.
“If you’re a bigger player in high school, you’re used to attacking blocks, going over the top of them,” he explained. “Now, you have to get a little wider on the court, maybe hit a little more cross, where you could previously hit line over a smaller player. You have to be able to spray the court a little bit more, diversify your attack.”
The early signs, while providing just a small sample size, are promising. Part of a seven team field at the Adidas Cup at Durham College last weekend, Cambrian managed to register a pair of splits, while remaining competitive with all six teams that they faced:
Cambrian 1 vs George Brown 1 (26-24, 16-25)
Cambrian 1 vs Conestoga 1 (14-25, 25-23)
Cambrian 0 vs Loyalist 2 (22-25, 20-25)
Cambrian 0 vs Algonquin 2 (18-25, 16-25)
Cambrian 0 vs Durham 2 (21-25, 16-25)
Cambrian 0 vs Fleming 2 (22-25, 16-25)
"Getting the new players on the court is important, so they can experience playing at the OCAA level," stated Sutton, prior to the tournament. "Within two weeks, they could be subbing in to a meaningful game. We have to test some people out, see who is going to rise up, so that we can take other players off and give them a break."
"The big thing is coming together as a team," Sutton added. "We have a lot of new players, and we have to get to know each other." One player who will require little adjusting is newly anointed team captain Isaac Claveau.
The native of Hornepayne spent the summer taking part in the OVA (Ontario Volleyball Association) beach Elite and "AA" Open Men's circuit, with Sutton at his side every step of the way.
The Golden Shield kick off regular season play a week from Saturday, hosting the Sheridan Bruins on October 22nd, before tangling with their local rivals a week later. The Collège Boréal Vipères welcome the Cambrian team to the francophone post-secondary campus on Saturday, October 29th, with game time scheduled for 8:00 p.m.
The Cambrian Golden Shield men's volleyball team will feature Harry Singh, Nathan Werbiewski, Abu Dumbuya, Alex Beaton, Jérémie Lachapelle, Curtis Gallinger, Sheldon Root, Colton Turner, Isaac Claveau, Mitchell Reid, Ryan Marcotte, Sean O'Connor, Lucas Claveau, Scott Williams and Jason Nadeau during the 2016-2017 season.