If you thought the men’s volleyball team was good last season, just wait until you see what they have in store this year.
The Tigers return with 12 players that took home Atlantic University Sport (AUS) banner last season. Dan Ota, the 12-time AUS coach of the year returning for his 16th year with the Tigers, says his team is prepared to live up to the hype.
“We’ve really picked up where we left off last year at the national championships,” said Ota. “They’ve come back stronger, highly committed and have shown so far that they’re really ready to take on the challenge.”
The Tigers placed sixth at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships last season. They enter this year as the 10th-ranked team in Canada. Ota knows his team can improve on that ranking as the season pushes forward.
“I think our guys are extremely capable of being one of the top teams in the country,” said Ota. “And if that’s not reflected in the rankings I don’t think our guys really worry about that too much.”
The team has already had a flawless preseason, beating Queen’s twice over the Thanksgiving break and going undefeated during their Interlock Event in Quebec. The Tigers beat CIS sixth-ranked Laval during that trip in straight sets.
“We’re really happy with the result,” said Ota, “but I don’t think any of the guys are surprised because they know what they’re capable of.”
All of Dal’s starters from last year are returning in this year’s campaign. Fifth-year Bryan Duquette, who was near the top of almost all stat categories last year, will lead as captain for the Tigers. Look for fourth-year Jonathan MacDonald to act as the primary setter and Dartmouth native Connor Maessen’s 6’10 stature to be a huge presence at the front of the net. Alex Dempsey, Matthew Donovan and Kristen O’Brien round out the Tigers’ starting rotation.
Ota is thankful for the wide variety of players he has to rely upon if one were to get injured and to have room to add other players in when need be.
“In terms of when our other guys will have a chance to play, that’s going to depend on our opponent and how our other guys are playing at the time,” said Ota. “But the seven guys who we have now will be carrying the bulk for the rest of this year.”
Dal starts their season on the road against the UNB Varsity Reds on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. Ota said he’s recently noticed a significant improvement in in the V-Reds volleyball program, which has given the Atlantic division more recognition.
“They’ve had a couple years where they’ve actually beat us in conference championships. As disappointing as those results were at the time, I think it’s a positive thing for our conference overall because it shows our conference isn’t all about one team.”
The Tigers first home game is Nov. 7 against the Memorial Seahawks.