The best 8 universities in Canadian men’s volleyball are converging in Hamilton, Ontario this weekend to compete in the 2017-2018 national championships. And don’t underestimate the level of competition just because it is taking place north of the border; every team taking part in this tournament would be a power player in any NCAA D1 conference. Recall that earlier this year that McMaster University, the 5th seed in the tournament, beat Ohio State 3-0 and 3-2 earlier in the season.
The last few years have been completely dominated by an unlikely powerhouse: Trinity Western University, a tiny 4000-student religious school from a suburb of Vancouver. They have won the last two championships in convincing fashion and took down their biggest competition, the 2-seed University of Alberta, in the CanWest championships last weekend. Their alumni litter the rosters of elite professional teams in Europe and include players such as Blake Scheerhorn of AZS Olsztyn, Steven Marshall of Berlin Recycling Volleys, and Daniel Jansen VanDoorn of Chaumont VB 52. Their current roster is comprised of Usports MVP Adam Schriemer and one of volleyball’s most promising prospects, sophomore Eric Loeppky. They are prohibitive favourites this year, and every opponent has them circled as the team to beat.
- Trinity Western Spartans(22-2)
- The favourite to win the tournament. Eric Loepkky scores 4.05 kills per set on absurd efficiency and is a lock to compete on Canada’s senior team in the near future. Adam Schriemer is the leader of the team and league MVP. The 5th-year setter has 3448 assists in his career with Trinity Western, a school record.
- Alberta Golden Bears (19-5)
- The team with the best shot at taking down the behemoth at the top of these rankings. They lost to the Spartans 1-3 in the CanWest finals, but a redemption here would be sweet. Taryq Sani is a sophomore who is a rare combination of powerful hitter and quick-footed defender. He led the team in kills (4.07) and digs (1.89) per set.
- UBC Thunderbirds (20-4)
- The University of British Colombia took second place in the regular season of the brutal CanWest conference. Setter Byron Keturakis is capable of taking over games with his serve (0.71 per set).
- Montreal Carabins (12-2)
- The first-seeded team on the list that is not from CanWest, Montreal will be a fresh look for the teams from out west. 3rd-year setter Gabriel Chancy is ridiculously talented. He averaged 10.32 assists per set and is a member of Team Canada’s senior B team.
- McMaster Marauders (15-2)
- Despite losing 4 all-stars in the past 2 seasons, hosts McMaster University still easily tore through the weaker Ontario University Atheltic conference. Outside hitters Andrew Richards and Brandon Koppers are tough to match as a tandem and will be key if McMaster is to make any noise.
- UNB Varsity Reds (4-11)
- An unlikely entry into the tournament, the University of New Brunswick gets a berth due to their Atlantic University Sport title despite going 1-8 to end their regular season.
- Queen’s Gaels (10-8)
- A young squad that delivered back-to-back upsets against veteran squads Western University and Ryerson Rams to earn their spot in the U Sports playoffs. Rookie setter Zane Grossinger controls the game with the poise of someone with much more experience than he does.
- Windsor Lancers (10-7)
- This is Windsor’s first appearance in the Usports playoffs in program history. They have a brutal first match against Trinity Western, but hopefully, the young team led by Pierce Johnson and Brad Gyemi will gain some valuable experience.
Quarter-Finals Schedule: Friday, March 16th
- 1 p.m. ET: UBC (3) vs. UNB (6)
- 3 p.m. ET: Alberta (2) vs. Queen’s (7)
- 6 p.m. ET: Montreal (4) vs. McMaster (5)
- 8 p.m. ET: Trinity Western (1) vs. Windsor (8)