Three weeks have passed since the College Heights Cougars senior boys last played a meaningful volleyball match.
But don't expect them to show any signs of rust this weekend when they take to the floor in the Condor Classic at Duchess Park secondary school. Knowing they'll get a chance to play the D.P. Todd Trojans and Duchess Park Condors, who have both climbed ahead of the Cougars in the latest provincial double-A coaches poll, the Cougars plan to hit the ground running today at the Condor Classic tournament.
The Trojans and Condors both competed last weekend in the 24-team Mizuno UBC Thunderbird Invitational tournament in Vancouver against mostly triple-A teams. D.P. Todd finished tied for 13th, while the Duchess Park ended up 21st. Considering the strong field of triple-A and double-A teams entered at UBC, the results of the two Prince George teams carried significant weight in raising their provincial rankings.
The Trojans have now swapped places with the Cougars, jumping from ninth to seventh, while the Condors moved up from not ranked status into eighth place. College Heights is coming off a straight-set win over the Trojans in the final of the season-opening Kodiak Classic tournament but Cougars first-year head coach Linden Smith says that won't lull his team into a false sense of security.
"It's been almost three weeks since we've seen those guys play so everyone will have improved by now," said Smith, who served three years as an assistant under head coach Jay Guillet.
"Defence is the strength of our team and they're a very scrappy team at this point. They try not to let the ball hit the floor, more than other College Heights teams in the past. We've always had teams that think they need to focus on offence, and that's just the player mentality."
That traditional philosophy at College Heights has changed out of necessity. They are not a big team, averaging only about five-foot-eight, and could pose a bit of problem against teams like the Trojans, which can put up a formidable wall with tall triplets Colby, Haydn and Joel Molcak. The Cougars will try to counteract their physical shortcomings by hitting around those lanky arms and making smart tips at the net to find open hardwood.
Power hitter Brandon Cosh, right side hitter Riley Kidd, power hitter Kyle Apolczer and middle blocker Austin Horsnell are the only Grade 12s on an otherwise young Cougars roster. Cosh was an all-star in the Kodiak Classic, knocking down feeds from setter Jared Pritchard, the MVP of the Kodiak tournament. Pritchard is one of three Grade 11 Cougars who played on the under-16 club provincial team, along with libeiro Brady Patterson and middle blocker Eric Murphy.
The four-team tournament also includes the North Peace Polars of Fort St. John, a triple-A team.
The Cougars open the tournament today at 3:40 p.m. against D.P. Todd.
The Classic also features an eight-team senior girls tournament that includes Duchess Park (senior and junior teams), Cedars Christian, Kelly Road (A and B teams), Correlieu, North Peace and Fort St. James.