Clipper Men are #1 in the country

Nolan Weinmaster | Nov 12, 2010

The Clipper Men's volleyball team is number-one in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association.

It's been 32 years since a Clipper team was number one in the CCAA. In 1977, Coach Carl Hinderager and the Clipper Men’s basketball team won the CCAA national championship.

A lot has changed since then. The Prairie Athletic Conference that Briercrest used to compete in is no longer a part of the CCAA. Briercrest basketball, volleyball, and hockey made the transition to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association, in 1996.

Since joining the ACAC, Briercrest has battled hard to earn any recognition. They face some of the best competition in Canada. This is especially true for men’s volleyball, where the ACAC has dominated volleyball in Canada – 14 out of the last 16 CCAA National Volleyball Championships have gone to teams from the ACAC.

<strong>Small school, big deal</strong>
Being ranked the best volleyball team in the country is a huge accomplishment. The small, private Christian college of 600 is competing against some schools 20 times larger, but for the last three seasons now, the men’s volleyball team has been one of the top teams in the ACAC and in Canada.

The number-one ranking is certainly an honour, but definitely not something that has just come out of the blue. It has been a process since 2004 when Coach Nigel Mullan Jr. took over as head coach.

Mullan, who was born the year of the last Briercrest number-one CCAA ranking, has steadily built a powerhouse team.

Mullan, a Briercrest alum, has always had a passion for athletics. Through hard work and diligent recruiting, Mullan has turned that vision into reality with his men’s volleyball program.

<strong>Good old-fashioned hard work</strong>
Mullan was dedicated to building a championship program, and through tireless effort in recruiting top athletes and growing as a coach, he began to make strides.

He had an immediate impact, guiding his team to a spot in the ACAC tournament in his first season as coach. From there, the program continued to grow, as Mullan led his team into the playoffs each and every season. Each year they've gotten a little closer to winning ACAC and CCAA championships.

The Clipper Men's volleyball team has been one of the top contenders in the ACAC for the past three seasons with two silver medals. In 2007-2008, when they won their first medal, the team also earned a wildcard berth to the national championships, where they came within a few points of going to the national final, narrowly losing to UBC-Okanagan in a five-set semi-final.

Since then, Mullan has been driven to get back to the CCAA championships.

After that 2007-2008 season, he had to rebuild the program again. All-Canadian Luke Dubbledam and ACAC all-conference middle Steve Nash moved on, and only five players were returning.

Mullan went to work recruiting high caliber talent and signed Scott Lesher, Trevor Klassen, Joel Dyck and Zac Ens: players to build a championship program around.

Two seasons later (last year), they were in the ACAC final again, winning a silver medal in a tough loss to the SAIT Trojans. Last year, Alberta was the host province for nationals, so the team was denied a wild card berth despite their silver medal win.

<strong>All about the players</strong>
Mullan credits his players, past and present, for the success of the program today.

“Every player that has been a part of this program has helped get us to where we are today,” he said. “We used to say that the players from the past are paving the way for the ones still to come ... I believe that the players who gave their eligibility to the program have built the foundation that has given us the results today.”

He appreciates the commitment his players have shown.

“There are always other choices for our players, but it has been special to see the players believe in what we are trying to do here at Briercrest and stay with the program.”

Colin Kubinec, a fifth-year player, is one such player.

“It has been exciting to be a part of the journey of seeing the culture shift from one of striving to be part of the elite teams in the ACAC, to now knowing that a national championship is very much within our reach,” he said.

Kubinec came into the program in Mullan’s second year as head coach. The team finished fifth the next two seasons.

“Changing a culture is not an easy process,” Kubinec said, “but our coach has led us on a journey where we have changed the way we think and the way we act and how we believe in our abilities – to make us think and act like champions.”

The choice for Kubinec to stay a part of the program for five years was an easy one from his perspective.

“Having experienced a couple of silver medals, and seeing the team we were going to have this year, it wasn’t hard to make the decision to come back and pursue the national championship with this group of guys.”

<strong>Sights set on gold</strong>
Returning players Kubinec, Lesher, Klassen, Dyck, Ens, James Dempsey, Cody Quiring, and Pablo Acuna have, their sights set on ACAC and CCAA Gold. Blake Proudfoot, who played two seasons for the Clippers from 2001-2003, and Carl Unger, who transferred from Capilano University, have been key additions. They are joined by Carter Reimer, Josh Wendel, and Clinton Siebert, some good rookie talent.

The team is off to 6-0 start to this regular season and are the only undefeated team in the ACAC.

That is exactly where they want to be. The team couldn't be more excited about their current number-one ranking.

“The group of guys on the team this year – we all really believe in our ability to win nationals, and this number-one ranking just shows that our belief is grounded in reality,” Kubinec said.

They know, however, that there is a long journey ahead, and that a CCAA number-one ranking in November does not equal a gold medal in March.

“We are excited, but know that we have a ton of work to do,” Mullan said. “We are not satisfied with where we are at and are continuing to take strides towards our goal of winning the ACAC and CCAA Championships.”

The volleyball rankings change weekly and can be found on the CCAA website:

www.ccaa.ca/web/index.php/en/mvbrankings