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NAIT wins men's collegiate volleyball championship in Olds

Edmonton-based college wins Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Men's Volleyball Championship
Members of the NAIT Ookpiks celebrate after winning the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship in Olds over the weekend.

OLDS — In 1977, Star Wars was first released in theatres, Hotel California won Record of the Year at the Grammys, and the world mourned the death of Elvis Presley.

It was also the last time the NAIT Ooks won an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Men's Volleyball Championship.

However, NAIT's wait for another men's volleyball banner came to an end in Olds on Saturday, as they defeated the Keyano College Huskies in straight sets (25-16, 25-23, 25-23).

That brought  a long-awaited banner back to Edmonton and earned the team a berth into the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Men's Volleyball National Championship, to be hosted by Camosun College in Victoria from March 6-9.

"We never doubted ourselves," said fifth-year NAIT outside Shae McIntyre, who finished with 12 kills and six digs en route to being named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

"We came in with confidence. We knew we were going to win this game, and we played like it. We didn't let anything faze us, they went on runs and we responded, and the whole team played great today."

"It's exhilarating being here," said Ooks head coach Phil Dixon. "The guys have been looking forward to this day for a long time, and have been working and planning towards it, so it's just great the way they executed all weekend, and never had a doubt they were going to get the job done today once we got started.

"I'm just proud of each and every one of the guys."

Ross Bishop completed a stellar weekend with a 13-point performance (seven kills, four blocks, two aces) that landed him an All-Tournament Team selection.

Wyatt Turnbull (seven kills, one block) and Daniel Ward (five kills, two blocks, one ace) each added eight points, with Turnbull also adding five digs.

Setter Karter Godin picked up two pieces of hardware, as he paired a Player of the Game selection with an All-Tournament Team selection of his own.

The historical significance of the victory wasn't lost on Dixon, who is in his 10th year with the program.

"It's been a heck of a run, but we hope we do the Ooks proud and represent the ACAC proud in Victoria and bring home a medal, and even push further for some wild cards for such a strong conference," he said.

For the Huskies, Rafael Parada (eight kills, one ace, one block) and Preston Yole (eight kills, two blocks) each had 10 points to lead the way, with both also earning All-Tournament Team selections.

Meanwhile, ACAC North All-Conference middle Athus Silva added nine points (five kills, two aces, two blocks).

McIntyre praised the team's connectivity as a key contributor to the team's triumph.

"Everyone gets along, everyone lifts each other up, and at our lowest points, it's such a great feeling to have 16 guys behind you," he said.

"It's so easy to play when you have that team atmosphere, and it worked well for us this year."

Similarly, Dixon referred to his team as a blessing to work with.

"They were really intentional at the start of the year about creating a culture within the group from a whole bunch of different perspectives," he said.

"It came back to having a caring culture where we just built into each other, and at the end of the day, the communication and the caring, and just the competitive nature of these guys.

"They were like a dog on a bone, they would not let go, they just kept grinding."

With a trip to Victoria now firmly in the crosshairs, McIntyre is ready to get back to work.

"It's something I've been looking forward to for years, and we're just getting started," he said. "We've got three more games to win in Victoria to become national champs."

Players of the Game

• KC - Nathan Luken

• NAIT - Karter Godin

ACAC Men's Volleyball Championship All-Tournament Team

• Shae McIntyre, NAIT - Most Valuable Player

• Ross Bishop, NAIT

• Karter Godin, NAIT

• Rafael Parada, Keyano

• Preston Yole, KeyanoNoah Carlson, RDP

•  Gabriel Bjorkas, Lakeland

• Paul Dionne, Lethbridge


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