Briercrest surges into national final against the Kings

Matthew Gourlie
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Clippers sweep Mohawk College in CCAA semifinal

The Briercrest College Clippers have gotten past three and two.

Josh Wendel (8), from the Briercrest Clippers celebrates a kill with teammates Jachin Karg, left, and Pablo Acuña in the first game of Friday's CCAA national men's volleyball semifinal at YaraCentre.

If they can get past one Saturday night, it might just be lift off for the roof of the YaraCentre.

The Clippers rolled past the second-ranked Mohawk College Mountaineers Friday 3-0 (25-22, 25-14, 25-12) in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CACA) men's volleyball semifinal. The win gives them a chance to face the top-ranked Red Deer College Kings — the team that knocked them out of their league playoffs.

"It's fun to be playing here and the guys are really embracing it," said Briercrest College head coach Nigel Mullan shouted over the celebratory din inside the local fieldhouse.

The Red Deer College Kings beat Columbia Bible College 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-12) in the other semifinal to advance to the final which will be played Saturday at 8 p.m. at YaraCentre.

Fueled by frenetic crowd of yellow clad, thunderstick clanging Clippers fans, Briercrest carried the momentum forward from their emotional opening night win over third-ranked Douglas College.

"I thought (Thursday) night was a big one for us in terms of getting the monkey off of our backs and performing in a big game," said Mullan. "I thought (Friday) if we controlled the first contacts like we've been talking about we would have a good chance at being successful."

Clippers' outside hitter Josh Senneker was benched in Thursday's thrilling 3-2 win over Douglas College, but he bounced back with a performance that earned him the Clippers' most valuable player award. Senneker finished with 13 kills, three aces and 10 digs in the win.

"I couldn't pull it together," Senneker said  of his Thursday night performance. "I wasn't playing my best — not like tonight — but Steve (Guenther) went out and played unreal. Whatever helps the team makes me happy."

Mullan credited Senneker with a great response and gave him credit for staying ready to play.

"Josh Senneker came back and played really well. We talked (Thursday) about how we need everyone to help and he did a great job," said Mullan.

The first game was up for grabs, but Caronport's own Josh Wendel made a big kill at the net to give the Clippers a 24-22 lead and then offered up a service ace to end the first game.

From there on, it was all Clippers. Setter Carter Reimer spread the ball well and despite being out-sized, Wendel, Senneker, Cody Quiring and Brad Harms helped win the battle at the net all night.

"If we pass the ball well, they have to respect us. Speed kills right? We really like to use that speed to our advantage because we're not a bigger team. To be fast we have to pass the ball," said Mullan.

Senneker said that he felt that their passing and serving really helped them carry the day.

The Mountaineers, who hail from Hamilton, couldn't string any points together to gain some momentum in the final two games.

"We didn't take care of the serve and pass very well and I thought Briercrest did a great job," said Mohawk College head coach Matthew Schnarr. "Briercrest did a little bit of a better job of controlling the ball on their side of the net. We were not as consistent as they were and that allowed them to find some rhythm, while we were kind of choppy.

"For us to be successful we need the middle of the court to be an option. We have two great middle attackers and when you're passing the ball around the attack line, it's pretty tough to score on those balls," added Schnarr whose team features seven-foot-two middle Bryce Marcussen. "It put our outside hitters in some pretty stressful situations. The key to our offence is having our middles available and we didn't do a good job of that and it shows on the score."

At the Alberta College Athletics Conference championship, Red Deer beat Briercrest 3-1 (25-22, 24-26, 25-17, 25-18) as they repeated as ACAC champions. The Kings were 17-1 in ACAC play this season and have been on top of the CCAA rankings all season.

"We've been there. We've been so close," said Senneker of their recent loses to Red Deer. "It's pretty much the match we wanted the whole time. We wanted redemption."

After winning eight straight national championships in the 2000s, Red Deer has gone five years without a title. They lost the final a year ago and will be hungry not see a repeat of last year's disappointment.

Mullan knows Red Deer will offer a great test, but he is hoping his team just tries to play their game.

"We can't worry about trying to play a perfect game," said Mullan. "Sometimes the idea against a No. 1 seed is 'I have to play perfect.' You have to play well, but you have to play within ourselves and play as a team. If we can pass the ball, I think that will give us an opportunity."



Organizations: Mohawk College Mountaineers, Red Deer College Kings, Douglas College Briercrest College Columbia Bible College Alberta College Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Kings

Geographic location: Red Deer

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