By Daniella Lopez
Hoping to build on last year’s momentum, the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s volleyball team will soon have an opportunity to showcase their talent on home court. The team will host an exhibition tournament from Oct. 14 to 15 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
The team went 5-8 in the 2021-22 regular season and made it to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarter-finals, before losing to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in a hard-fought battle.
“We have a pretty big expectation [to perform well] because of what happened last year, so we have that fire in us,” said libero Lhexen Rabit.
Fourth-year setter Saad Shaikh echoed Rabit’s sentiments.
“I want to be solid and play like we did last year in our quarter-finals and then build from there.”
TMU will play against the Nipissing Lakers and Waterloo Warriors in the tournament. Last season, TMU played against the Warriors but didn’t face them in the regular season because of limited inter-divisional play due to the pandemic.
In their exhibition game against the Warriors, the Bold won in four sets. They played the Lakers twice last season, losing both matches three sets to none. Waterloo finished their season with a 3-9 record, while Nipissing finished with a 7-3 record.
TMU hasn’t played Waterloo in the regular season since before the pandemic. They play Waterloo twice in February and won’t see the Lakers at all in the regular season.
“We have a pretty big expectation…because of what happened last year”
“It’ll be a good experience for us,” said assistant coach Niko Rukavina.
While Shaikh knows the team won’t be perfect heading into the tournament, he’s OK with it.
“I want us to play well, work on passing and serving and make sure we’re actually doing the things we work on in practice,” he said.
As a longtime member of the program, Rabit has big expectations heading into the tournament, yet, he also acknowledges the pre-season is the perfect time to experiment.
“It’s gonna be really cool to see who rises to the game.”
Rukavina said hosting this tournament will make the team more comfortable with the hardwood—and home court advantage is always beneficial.
Last season, TMU held a near-perfect record on home court, with their only loss at the MAC coming against the Varsity Blues in mid-February. However, their home wins came against the three worst teams in their division, who had six wins combined.
“Near the end we kind of hit our stride and we’re hoping to bridge that gap”
Just because both Shaikh and Rabit are veterans on the squad, that doesn’t stop either of them from wanting to improve their game for the upcoming season.
Shaikh hopes to be a consistent server for the team to give them a cushion when they’re up or down. He said doing so will take the pressure off his teammates.
For Rabit, the pressure on and off the court is what he hopes to let go of this season.
“Last year, I was really worried about getting an All-Star award and a high GPA…This year I want to work on being confident.”
Ultimately, Rukavina said the goal at the beginning of every new season is to try and win an OUA Championship, but getting out of the quarter-finals is another priority for the team. This exhibition tournament will help the Bold to start off the new campaign on the right note.
“Last year, we didn’t have the greatest start, but near the end, we kind of hit our stride and we’re hoping to bridge that gap and start the way we finished last year and keep improving.”