By Amit Shilton
Watching the men’s volleyball team play without a program has become nearly impossible.
The familiar faces of stars Ryan Vandenburg, Lukas Porosa and Matt Fugard are gone, replaced by seven rookies.
The team, fresh off a 14-day training trip to Poland, played the Team Canada Masters last Saturday. The Masters, who all played for the national program years ago, made easy work of the Rams, winning 3-1 (25-23, 25-18, 25-17, 19-25).
“It reminds me of back in my first year when we had a lot of rookies,” said Mark Spehr, one of three players on the team in their fifth and final year of eligibility. The others are liberos Roger Marszalek and Szymon Wierdak.
The team’s inexperience showed early on in the match. In the first set, the Rams got off to a roaring start despite having three rookies in the starting lineup. They went into the second technical time out up 16-12, but just couldn’t hang on, dropping the set 25-23.
Team Canada then put the game on cruise control, taking charge of the next two sets and winning them handily. In the third, coach Mirek Porosa started experimenting with his newcomers, sometimes playing four new faces at once together.
“I’m just giving everyone the same playing time,” said Porosa. “You have to remember that this is a totally brand new team compared to last year.”
Rookies Igor Marszalek, Logan McClevis and Paul Khomenko impressed during the game, coming up with critical blocks and key kills. Newcomer Kyle Akins started off a bit slow, but showed a few flashes of brilliance good enough to earn player of the game honours.
“We have a very great team, a lot of potential,” said Igor Marszalek, who only arrived in the country three days before and says is still working on his English. “It’s a very nice university and I like this team so I think it’s going to be good.”
Porosa said that he is still trying to figure out his players and is unsure who will make up his starting lineup. The Rams will play the same Masters Team later in the month, a game where Porosa expects to see his team come up with a better finish.
“I think they did pretty well against these experienced guys,” Porosa said. “The bar is high for this team. I don’t want to lower this expectation.”
Last year the Rams finished second in their division and bowed out of the playoffs after losing to the McMaster Marauders in the semi-finals. The Rams will host the Leasebank Invitational Tournament from Sept. 28-30.