It wasn’t the same team Greg Poitras had seen all season long.
And the head coach of the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s volleyball squad didn’t have to look far to understand why.
Six days after the death of their friend and teammate, Jordan Young, due to a car accident, the Heat made it as far as the gold medal final of the CCAA championship Saturday in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
But when all was said and done, the Columbia Bible College Bearcats walked away with the hardware in a tightly-contested final beating a grief-laden Heat team in three sets.
“Even in the matches we won, it just didn’t look right, some of our top players weren’t in their usual form,” said Poitras. “We went into the tournament with a lot of baggage, probably more than any team has had, and we were at a disadvantage with thoughts of Jordan. Everything had just built up, and unless you’re totally focused on winning a national championship, you’re not going to win. Our guys tried, they gave it what they had, but they were over-emotional and just didn’t perform the way they did all year.”
Still, with scores of 29-31, 15-25, 26-28, Poitras said the final match could have gone either way.
To complicate matters, UBCO lost 6-foot-8 middle Aleks Bergen to an ankle injury in the quarterfinals.
“As close as those games were in the final we could have easily been up 2-1,” said Poitras. “But we just ran into some bad luck. Losing Aleks hurt us, even though Keegan Hoffman did an amazing job in his place. If we play that team straight up, we win most of the time. Things just didn’t go our way.”
From the season’s opening serve, the Heat’s goal was to win national gold.
Despite not getting what they came for, Poitras expects the tragedy and adversity of a difficult end to the season will benefit his players as they get set to move forward into the CIS.
“For me the ultimate would have been to win gold…sure we fell short, but we can look at the bright side of a silver,” he said. “The guys have had a great year, they’ve proven they can compete at the top level. Our guys have learned about volleyball and life in so many different ways this season. All of them are back and will have chance to do something special next season in Canada West.”
On another positive note, setter Preston Tucker of the Heat was named the CCAA’s player of the year in men’s volleyball, while Tucker and teammate Nate Speijer earned all-Canadian honours.