By JAKE ROBINSON
With support workers back serving the school community, it’s time for athletes to start making some serves of their own.
Men’s and women’s volleyball tryouts began after the recreation centre reopened after being closed for the first two weeks of school.
The delayed start has caused some minor setbacks for the teams including low attendance at tryouts and the inability to practise.
The women’s team had only five players attend the first tryout on Sept. 20. Although the numbers increased to 12 players on Sept. 22, the team’s coach, Marek Gwozdz, is encouraging more athletes to try out. The team will practise on Mondays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m.
“For the next few weeks we’ll be using those time slots for additional tryouts because we were delayed as a result of the labour dispute,” said Gwozdz.
Players who wish to try out can either attend a practice or email Gwozdz at email@example.com.
Gwozdz played for Conestoga during the 1992-1993 season as a setter; Conestoga’s volleyball team was discontinued the following year and didn’t play at a varsity level until last season.
The team will also have help from Mallory O’Hara who has played for Preston High School and the Waterloo Tigers in the Ontario Volleyball Association.
The men’s team began their tryouts at Jacob Hespeler Secondary School just before the strike ended. After making cuts, the team returned to Conestoga for their first practice on Sept. 22. Although some cuts have already been made, assistant coach Jim Manzana said they might invite more players to try out because the strike caused an unusual start to the school year.
Manzana was the team’s unofficial assistant coach last season and is looking forward to making a playoff run as the official assistant coach this year.
“The goal is to make the playoffs,” he said. “We are actually in the toughest division, which is the West Division, so we have a lot of work cut out for ourselves.”
Last season, the west had the three top teams in the league — Humber, Redeemer and Mohawk. The women’s team will also have to compete against the best of last year’s Ontario College Athletic Association (OCAA) season. Humber, Fanshawe, Mohawk and Nipissing were the top four teams last year and will compete in the west with Conestoga.
Both teams are looking to improve from last year’s season and continue to develop the school’s volleyball program. Mazana described Conestoga as having a lot of raw talent because they don’t have as much OCAA experience as some other schools.
“It’s a building stage,” said Gwozdz. “They didn’t have a team for the last 16 years. They were building a new team and I think that trend will continue.”
The women’s team has five returning players this season while the men’s team has three.
Both teams will travel to North Bay to begin their season on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5, competing against Canadore and Nipissing.
Returning player and third-year construction engineering technology student, Jon Moser, said he is looking forward to a fresh start and surprising opponents.
“Being able to surprise the teams that are pretty much counting us out,” he said. “I love being the underdog, so it will be fun.”