DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
It's been nearly four full weeks off for the Winnipeg Wesmen men's volleyball team and, the head coach says, at times it looked like it.
The Wesmen got up early, stumbled momentarily, and eventually recovered to score a 3-2 (25-19, 25-23, 19-25, 20-25, 15-7) win over the UBC-Okanagan Heat Friday in the Canada West conference opener for the team.
UBCO fell to 0-5 on the season while the Wesmen are merely 1-0, the product of having a first-week bye followed by another week off due to the folding of Regina's men's program in the off-season. What resulted was a 22-day layoff between an east-coast non-conference road trip and the start of the Wesmen conference season.
"The other team was really good and were actually very good in the second set forward," Wesmen head coach Larry McKay said. "We came through at the end of the second set with a few plays, but I felt like we were behind the 8-ball right from the second set forward. I thought it was pretty even.
"… (The layoff) has impacted us for sure. We need to get into the Canada West rhythm of two matches a weekend and we're not in that rhythm and this is kind of unknown territory for us."
The Heat were outgunned in the first set, but played it tight in the second, eventually getting over the hump with an inspired and energetic third and fourth in which the Wesmen fell back on their heels.
And while that was a positive for head coach Brad Hudson, it left him "conflicted", he said, given that the team was still left to chew on its 19th straight conference loss dating back to November 2017.
"We tend to think that we have a fairly resilient group, so I'm not surprised that they were able to come back," Hudson said. "We have a lot of new faces and players in new roles, so they have to learn how to play together … The problem with relying on being resilient is that usually it means you haven't started off very well, so you have to come back. So part of what we clearly need to do is learn how to start better."
Max Heppell led the Heat with 21 kills, while Noah Campbell added 16. Eli Risso had a match-high 22 digs.
Winnipeg hit .241 for the match while the Heat notched a .195 efficiency.