Clippers' season ends in fifth place at nationals
The Clippers have made a name for themselves in national volleyball and put Briercrest on the map. They sailed through the ACAC provincial volleyball championships in late February, knocking out the eight-time and defending national champions and finishing with a silver medal.
Two weeks later they went on to the CCAA National Championships near Toronto to finish an impressive fifth overall and take home the sportsmanship award—a phenomenal accomplishment for a roster of nine players from a school of only 650 students.
“I’m very proud,” said Nigel Mullan, the team’s coach. “I’m ecstatic. With only having nine guys [the average is 14], they really fought physically and mentally. It was incredible to see. [Our] program has reached a new level. It’s back on the map in the volleyball world.”
After an incredible second-place finish at the ACAC tournament, the Clippers won a wild card berth into the CCAA National Championships in Etobicoke, ON—mostly because they managed to knock the Red Deer College Kings, the eight-time and defending national champions, out of the running for gold—something no team has done in nine years.
They also came close to defeating the Mount Royal College Cougars, the number-one ranked team at the time—only six points separated the two teams at the end of the tournament.
And then, nationals. “That was the dream,” said Luke Dubbeldam, who took home CCAA All-Canadian and All-Star awards and who scored an astonishing 62 points in the tournament. “At the beginning, we said, ‘Yeah, let’s go to nationals.’ Why not set the bar high?”
“The guys really came together,” said Mullan. “The guys didn’t doubt that they were capable of accomplishing their goals. Anyone can hit a ball—but certain teams can mentally stay with it…It’s those teams that find success.”
The Clippers’ “magical run” continued through their first match at nationals as they took down the Malaspina Mariners of Nanaimo, BC. The crowd was behind them as they lost the first set to the Mariners but took the next three with Dubbeldam finishing with a game high 22 kills.
The next two matches were more difficult. They fought hard against University of British Columbia-Okanagan in a five set marathon until the end when a ball into the stands gave Okanagan the win.
They faced the Limoilou Titans from Quebec next, and with the crowd cheering themselves hoarse for the formerly unknown team from Saskatchewan, they traded points back and forth for almost the entire game until Limoilou was finally able to eliminate them in four sets.
The Clippers finished in a disappointing but very impressive fifth place. Perhaps even more striking is the warmth with which they were received at Humber College, the host institution for the tournament.
“We had the same jerseys as the Humber home team. It was fun to watch how the guys, the fans, and the staff [at Humber] seemed to take to us,” said Mullan.
“The support we felt from Humber College was unreal,” added Dubbeldam. “We became their second home team—that’s what they told us.”
As if that wasn’t enough, they were honored with the Fair Play Award. “They said we were the class of the tournament, [which is] a reflection of the guys’ nature,” said Mullan. “It’s been a treat to be able to coach these guys. They just want to serve the team and their King, which you can see in the way they treat one another.
“Most people didn’t really know who we were [in the beginning of the tournament],” Mullan continued. “At the end of the weekend, we definitely weren’t an unknown anymore.”