Saskatchewan Christian college ready to compete at nationals
The Briercrest Clippers have proven you don't have to be a huge college to have a successful volleyball program.
The private Christian college in Caronport, Sask., about an hour west of Regina, has an enrolment of 475 students. It won the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) women's volleyball title two weeks ago and is in Charlottetown for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championship.
"(We're) one of smallest, if not the smallest, school in the CCAA, so it's pretty cool for our school to be able to represent on the national stage," said head coach Nolan Weinmaster, who is in his 10th season with the squad.
This is the college's first trip to the tournament since joining the ACAC in 1996-97.
Being the only Saskatchewan member in the conference means travelling between 3.5 and eight hours every other weekend to Alberta for games.
Weinmaster said the team has been close the past three seasons, including losing in the conference semifinal the past two years.
"There was some heartbreak there to deal with, but we've learned from that," he said.
They defeated the King's Eagles in straight sets in this year's final after compiling a 19-5 regular season record.
The third-seeded Clippers meet the sixth-seeded Vancouver Island University Mariners today in quarter-final play at 3 p.m.
Weinmaster said he wants to see his girls continue its recent play.
"We've played some of our best volleyball of the year in our conference championship two weekends ago," he said. "We create opportunities to score points with our serve and our attack."
The team is led by fifth-year Mikayla Reinhardt and third-year Samantha Zacharias, the national player of the year. The team also has three second-year players and nine rookies.
"We've been blessed," Weinmaster said. "God has been faithful and (brought) some great players to our program. It's been awesome to work with them."
The Mariners received a wildcard to nationals after being upset in the PACWEST championship by the College Of The Rockies Avalanche. Veteran Tylar Turnbull leads the Mariners, which went 21-5 in regular season play.
By the numbers
Enrolment numbers for each of the eight colleges taking part in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association women's volleyball championship this week in Charlottetown.
27,500 Humber College
10,000 Vancouver Island University
6,000 Cegep Garneau
2,500+ Holland College
2,200 Mount Saint Vincent University
2,100 College of the Rockies
786 King's University
475 Briercrest College