Brent Mutis, Sport Information & Compliance Officer
Coming off a debut season as head coach where his team went 18-6 in PACWEST play, men's volleyball head coach Dave Dooley is far from satisfied.
He heads into season No. 2 on the job with several talented new players and some special athletes set to graduate and it's his job to create the cohesion that will allow the group to deliver on its potential.
Blues sports information director Brent Mutis sat down with Dooley this week to get his views on his evolution as a coach at this level plus the shape of the roster and what he expects will be the team's strong points in 2019-20.
BM: With a season under your belt and now a full recruiting cycle, are you more comfortable than this time last year?
DD: Maybe not more comfortable but more that I've had my own stamp on things and my own chance to bring in the recruits that I'd like to see. It's sad to see some of the other guys go… it's still not quite my team; a lot of these players are still products of (former Blues head coach) Emmanuel (Denguessi)'s system and I'm slowly turning that over to my own so it's nice to see that process move forward.
BM: What areas did you want to improve from last season and how did you address that?
DD: I think the two main areas that we struggled a little bit with last year were our block system and our out-of-system attack efficiency. Basically I've just looked to add some bigger arms and some bigger boys so if you look across the roster this year, we're quite a bit taller and more physical than we were last year. I'm hoping that will help our block be more of a presence and to be able to get the job done out of system on the offensive side of the ball.
BM: Your fifth-year captain is Simon Friesen. What does he mean to your team?
DD: I think every coach in the league would look at Simon and would just love to have a player like that running their offence. He's not only great at decision making, he's also really excellent at deception. He's always had strong hitters and he's able to set them up in good situations and now I'm hoping to give him some bigger hitters to be able to set and we'll see what he can do with them.
BM: What returning players do you expect will show leaps forward this year?
DD: We have several. We have Markus Bratsberg who's started for us last year in the left side position, he'll be moving to the libero position. He's looking to really compete for that role and hopefully he'll be able to excel in that position. Jacob Hopkins is also converting from kind of a right-side player to becoming more of a left side-player. He's probably our most offensive guy right now and is just learning more and more how to handle that first contact and once he can do that he's going to be a serious threat for sure.
BM: Which recruits are you most looking forward to turning loose on the opposition?
DD: Wow, how much time do you have? (laughs). We've got a lot of transfers, obviously. A rookie of the year Rafael Hilario coming to us from Humber College. He's a recruit that I almost had with us last year, he ended up going to Humber and now has transferred to us so he's going to be a big offensive threat for us. Ben Friesen is a fifth-year transfer from UFV to join his brother, both in their fifth year. He's going to be awesome for us, especially on first contact and on the offensive side of things. A transfer from Douglas College, Malachi McMullin, we're just creating a more competitive team for us this year and he's someone that can really push Markus Bratsberg for that starting libero position so they both need to answer the call and improve. And then all new middles (Leonard Tesarik, James Fong, Enis Besirevic and Kyle Cook) all four players in the middle are new and they're all big and they're all physical and they're all really an option for us to use and I think we're going to be really scary out of the middle of the court. And then Dimitrije Djordjevic out of Serbia, left side and right side, (he has) a big 6-foot-9 wing span. We're hoping to get that size on the court and let him use his freakishly long arms.
BM: How does your teaching background shape your approach to coaching varsity student-athletes?
DD: Coaching is teaching at the end of the day so I try to abide by some of the principles of learning. It requires active participation of my students or of my athletes and I need their full engagement, their full buy-in, their full interest. They learn at different rates and in different ways so I just try to provide really consistent routines for them in terms of practice plan on the white board, things that we do on a daily basis and then learning opportunities. Some of them need to learn by experience, some of them need to learn by doing, some of them need to learn by seeing. I'm just hoping to apply those principles of learning to the volleyball court.
BM: What needs to happen for you to consider this season a success?
DD: For Simon, it's his fifth and final year with the Blues. For me, it's only my second year but I've really tried to build a team around Simon that could win a provincial championship. I think he's put in so much hard work and he's been rewarded with the individual accolades but I know for him, it's one thing – he wants to win a provincial championship. He wants to go to a national championship and compete for a medal there. If we do that, this season will be a success for the whole team and it will send Simon off in the right way.
The Blues men's volleyball season starts Friday, October 11 when they host Douglas College at the Centre for Sport and Wellness in an 8 p.m. start.