OLDS — The Olds College Broncos volleyball teams have tipped off their 2023-24 campaigns, and now they’re ready to welcome the Briercrest College Clippers to the Ralph Klein Centre for a home-opener doubleheader.
The home opener itself is Friday, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. (women) and 8 p.m. (men), with the two sides matching up again on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. (women) and 3 p.m. (men); every volleyball matchup is also available on ACACTV.ca, or on Telus OptikTV channel 1998.
The Broncos started their season in Red Deer against the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens and Kings.
The women's volleyball Broncos lost in three sets (25-22, 25-14, 25-16), and the men's volleyball Broncos lost in five sets (25-10, 24-26, 20-25, 25-22, 15-10).
On the men’s side, the Broncos are coming off their first Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) championship appearance since 1978, and they already have something to build toward this season as they will host the 2024 ACAC Men’s Volleyball Championship in February.
According to men’s volleyball head coach Ryan Marsden, the automatic berth connected to hosting the championship isn’t something the Broncos have spoken about.
“Our guys want to prove that they belong there and have immense pride in the league coming to our community,” he said. “We want to make the college and community proud of being able to bring this event here and don't want to disappoint.”
The Broncos are led by fourth-year outside Matheus Franca (Nova Lima, Brazil), who earned his first ACAC South All-Conference selection last season.
Ben Gammel (West Kelowna, B.C.), Strahinja Lazarevic (Pozarevac, Serbia) and Sean Vanderzee (Lethbridge) form the rest of the leadership group.
The Briercrest Clippers are the defending ACAC champion and reigning Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) bronze medalist in men’s volleyball.
The Broncos defeated the Clippers in Caronport, Sask. in both matchups last season.
Marsden knows the Clippers will pose a stiff test for the Broncos on home opening weekend.
“We will have to be focused on our overall goal of getting better each day,” he said. “We are a unified group and the guys understand that we are stronger together.”
Having taken a step forward last season, the team has continued to embrace the process, Marsden said.
“We have just reminded our returning student athletes how hard the work was that we put in and now that we have other programs’ attention, we want to continue that hard work,” he said.
“The new players coming in have adjusted quickly and understand what it means to be a member of our family.”
Meanwhile, on the women’s side, a culture reset is underway, as second-year head coach Sammy Fraser emphasized building belief within a competitive training environment, as well as the pursuit of a winning catalyst for the team’s culture.
“We had some good pieces in the 22/23 season, but were missing that push and drive to take the program to the next level,” Fraser said.
“We spent a lot of time revamping our strength and conditioning program and our recruiting focus shifted towards finding athletes who had experience being a part of winning programs.
Winning is a skill that needs to be learned, like anything else, so we were looking to bring in some athletes who could help be a catalyst for that culture.”
Fraser has been encouraged with how her players have bought in since training camp began nearly two months ago, all while nearly quadrupling their preseason schedule from four matches in 2022-23 to 15 this season.
“Every single athlete on our roster has been committed since Day 1,” she said.
“It has been an absolute grind, but they are trusting the process even when we aren't getting the result we want right now, but I think we are on the cusp of something really special this season.”
The Broncos have three third-year veterans in Lexi Lafreniere (Calgary), Sarah Merkosky (Chestermere) and Kendall Pavicic (Calgary), along with a number of additional returnees, and the incoming Bowness High School trio of outside Kate Scott, middle Kristen Pauls and setter Isabel Crashley.
Fraser believes the Broncos will be a scrappy side to contend with this season.
“This group has a lot of heart, and I think the fans will enjoy being along for the ride this season,” she said.
Geordie Carragher is Olds College Sports Information and Esports coordinator.