The St. Thomas University men’s volleyball team lost in a best-of-three semi-final series against the Holland Hurricanes 2-0 on Feb. 18 to close out its 2022-23 season.
The Tommies looked good throughout the game as they were up 2-0 on sets and were hoping to force a game three to move on and face the winner of the Université Saint-Anne Dragons and University of New Brunswick Saint John Sea Wolves.
However, the confidence dissipated as the Hurricanes stormed back to win three straight sets, winning 15-10 in the final set to punch their ticket to the next round.
“Holland was flat to start with, so we took advantage. But, they started playing a bit better and we just didn’t respond the way that you have to respond in a playoff game against a good team,” said head coach Henri Mallet.
The Tommies were 8-7 on the year — not the greatest performance they’ve had as they were champions from 2019-20 to 2021-22. However, the team dressed five rookies this season and they were hungry to get their first championship with the new-look squad.
“Obviously, the last couple of years, we’ve had some great success. Our goal is to win playoffs and compete for a national championship, but don’t forget we had a really young team where a lot of first and second years on the court played some key roles for us,” said Mallet.
“We’re already excited for next year because I think the core group of guys that we have is really promising for the next two, three, four years.”
STU started its season when it visited Holland for a weekend match-up on Prince Edward Island on Oct. 29 and 30. They went 1-1 and played the Hurricanes three other times throughout the regular season going 3-2.
Setter Raphael Fiset and outside fourth-year Adam McDougall were named to the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association’s All-Conference team prior to playoffs on Feb. 15. They enjoyed a successful year, with McDougall averaging 2.67 kills per set — 160 overall — and Fiset sporting 7.20 assists per set.
Fiset was also particularly keen on service aces, averaging 0.57 a set.
It all came full circle, though, as the final play of the match came from a service ace on Holland’s end, where the ball trickled over the netting and fell to the court’s sweaty surface. The McMillan Centre erupted with arms pumping and screams of rejoicing ringing through the gymnasium for the Hurricanes.
On the Tommies’ side, a group huddle formed, like so many times through the game, but this one was different. Players and coaches, knowing the game and their season were over, decided to huddle for one last time on the court as a group.
“We talked about how that game was motivation for next year. Going with the theme of building,” said McDougall after the game.
“Then we were talking about how grateful we were for this year and for the team. It was an emotional little huddle there.”
Mallet said losing in this fashion is a tough pill to swallow, but it doesn’t define who the players are, especially the graduating players.
“That’s not what you’re gonna remember when you look back at your career. I want them to remember the good times they’ve been through,” said Mallet.
Being McDougall’s final year of volleyball with STU, he said this year was a success in setting up the future, but he was at a loss for words to summarize his time with the Tommies in one word.
After taking a moment to reflect, he said “grateful.”
“It’s been a really good ride,” he said.