BY DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
When word began to circulate the University of Winnipeg was looking to change the look of its celebrated Wesmen Classic, Larry McKay admits he took a shine to it.
McKay assumed a greater workload when it was announced men's volleyball would take the reins this year as the 51-year-old tournament shifted from a basketball-only event for the first time ever.
Still, the longtime Wesmen head coach recognized the luster of playing host to a one-of-a-kind tournament that will welcome some of the top teams in all of Canada.
"There was a lot of interest," McKay said. "The Wesmen Classic is well known across the country. There's no eight-team tournament offered in all of Canada for men's volleyball in all of university, so we were offering something very unique."
There is, however, one other eight-team tournament offered in Canada, but its membership is pretty selective. And when the Wesmen host five of the top-ranked teams in Canada Dec. 28-30, it will give them a much better idea of how they'll match up should they be able to qualify for the national tournament in March.
The No. 7-ranked Wesmen will welcome four other teams in the top 11 in Canada: No. 4 Brandon, No. 6 Laval, No. 10 Manitoba and No. 11 Ryerson, as well as UNB, which is atop the AUS, and Western, which has the second-best record in the OUA.
"We have top programs right here in the province and then bringing in Laval, who's always been a top program outside of our province, and New Brunswick in recent years … has come on the scene and has been a top program, as well," McKay said. "So we have a very tough field."
McKay also acknowledged having a home event over the holidays – as opposed to a trip south for NCAA competition as the Wesmen have done in the past – changes the team's approach to training. He said the team's "work schedule" is "drastically different" than in the past.
"This is huge. This is a very big event, top Canadian teams," he said. "When we play against an American team there's very little at stake, but when we play against any of these Canadian teams everything's at stake. Even though it's not part of our league, it's still a Canadian team that we measure ourselves against."
Tournament passes are available for $25 and secured underground parking is available for $4 at the Axworthy Health and RecPlex.
For more information, contact David Larkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-786-9823.