The St. Thomas men’s volleyball team went into the CCAA national playoffs in Prince Edward Island ready to go. The Tommies were undefeated in regular season play, and won the ACAA conference championship with ease, but still were only ranked sixth going into nationals.
The Tommies went into the first round match up as the underdogs, as they were playing the Niagara Knights, who were ranked third in the CCAA.
ACAA most valuable player and Tommies outside hitter Jason Cannon felt that being the underdog really helped them in the match. They had just watched seventh place Limoilou Titans defeat the second place Augustana Vikings, so the Tommies were ready to pull off the upset.
“We watched so much game tape on them, and we knew how they played,” said Cannon about the Knights.
The Knights came out tough like expected, and won the first set 25-20. Then things started to turn around for the Tommies. The Tommies went on to win the next three sets. Each set was close, with the third even needing extra points, but the Tommies came away with the 3-1 win.
“Everyone just stepped up and was ready to play,” said Cannon.
The Tommies were rolling going into the semifinal game against the Limoilou Titans on Friday. It looked like the Tommies were going to keep that momentum going, as they started to dominate the Titans in the first set.
Then tragedy struck. Outside hitter Nick Levesque, who had been playing well for STU, went down with an ankle injury. He made his way off the court, while the Titans saw a chance to strike.
The Tommies were able to hold on to win the first set 25-21, but that’s when things started to fall apart.
“He was the one who couldn’t be stopped at that point,” said Cannon. “It was hard because it really hurt the momentum of that game.”
The Tommies went on to lose the next three sets against the Titans. St. Thomas had little problems in the regular season with any of the ACAA teams, so didn’t face a lot of challenges to help prepare them. The Tommies weren’t able to get a feel for the level of competition that was waiting for them at nationals.
Despite the 3-1 loss, the Tommies season wasn’t over. They still had a chance to win the bronze medal, if they won two games on Saturday. But the loss to the Titans, along with the loss of Levesque, left them discouraged. Cannon said after that it was tough to bring back the same intensity they had in the first game of the tournament.
The Tommies lost three straight sets to the St. Clair Saints, with none of the sets being close.
Though the Tommies didn’t get the finish they wanted, they still did better than any St. Thomas men’s volleyball team before them.
“It feels good to know that we made STU proud,” said Cannon. “I know under the circumstances of what happened, we all did the best we could.”