The top two men’s volleyball teams in the PACWEST duked it out on the North Shore on Friday night, and it was the Capilano University Blues who came out on top over the Vancouver Island University Mariners with a 3-1 decision. The win improves CapU to 15-2 on the season and keeps them atop the conference standings.
The #6-ranked Blues stormed out of the gate and quickly set the tempo in the first set. The powerful spin serves of Sameh Khodr, Kevin Chiu and Zarley Zalusky put #2-ranked VIU on their heels and limited their attack – and forced them into a timeout at 11-6. Capilano responded out of the huddle with a block, and then pushed their lead to double-digits before taking the opening frame 25-16.
The second set featured more of the same high-tempo action, and the Blues jumped out to a quick 5-0 powered by the serving of Simon Friesen. VIU took a timeout at 7-1 and responded with a run of their own to force CapU into a timeout of their own at 9-7, and then tied up it up at nine. But a Chiu service run put the Blues back up by four, and strong play at the middle by Zalusky and Mattias Wels-Lopez helped carry the home team to another 25-16 set win.
The second-place Mariners didn’t go away quietly – tightening up their defence to build up a lead in the third game. Capilano called an early timeout when down 8-5, but were forced to call another one shortly after at 14-8. The Blues were down by as much as eight in the set, but made a late push and cut the deficit to two at 23-21 and forced a VIU timeout. Yet that was as close as they got, as VIU took the set 25-22 to extend the match.
Capilano responded to take care of business in the fourth set and snuff out a potential VIU comeback. Khodr’s spin serves helped put the Blues in front and forced a timeout at 8-3, and he came out of that with another ace to push the lead up to eight. The Mariners slowly chipped away and cut the lead down to three to force Cap into a regroup at 15-12, but a Zalusky service pushed their lead back up to five.
The Mariners hung around and went on a 5-1 run to make it 19-18, but a Khodr kill and a Chiu ace were helped restore a three-point cushion. A Friesen block at 23-19 forced a VIU timeout, and they cut it to 23-21 to force a Capilano TO, but the Blues responded to force set point – where Zalusky hammered a kill to close out the match.
“I think in our first games against them in the fall, they dominated us offensively – so they were way more present and way more dominant,” said head coach Emmanuel Denguessi. ”But in this game, we won the show offensively. Our middle and our outside hitters were way ahead of the opposition.
“Also what we were able to do is not allow them to play their game. [VIU] has a very good back row attack option, and not allowing them to do that diminished their capacity to be able to exploit all the options that they have.”
Denguessi called his two middles the main decision-makers in the contest. Zalusky and Wels-Lopez combined for 26 kills and made only five errors, and Wels-Lopez had three blocks. Friesen had five blocks to go along with his 50 assists in the game, while Khodr had a well-rounded effort with 17 kills on a 0.400 hitting percentage, 10 digs, three aces, and two blocks.
The win puts some breathing room between the Blues and second-place VIU, who’s now 12-3. CapU also now holds a 2-1 edge in the season series, with the fourth and final game going Saturday afternoon in North Vancouver. First serve goes at 3:00pm.