Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY- Mount Royal University will be representing itself on the U SPORTS national level for the first time ever. The last time was seven years ago when the Cougars competed at the College level in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA).
A battle of Alberta will take place in Laval, QC, as provincial rivals Mount Royal Cougars and Alberta Golden Bears will face off in the quarter-finals of the national playoffs in men's volleyball.
Despite coming off a loss in the Canada West semi-finals to the eventual conference champion Brandon Bobcats, the Cougars clinched a berth in the final eight finishing fourth place in the U SPORTS end of season rankings.
MRU's road to nationals has been remarkable as Shawn Sky's squad is the first team in Mount Royal history to make an appearance in the university national playoffs in a season that was decorated with achievements.
The first match of the season started with a weekend sweep, only to put them up against the Golden Bears in week two. This was a hard fought battle between power houses that ended with a five-set victory on both nights for Alberta.
The Cougars responded by going on an 11-1 tear heading into the final stretch before seeing a slight drop in form. They concluding the season with a 2-4 record, resting a few athletes down the stretch.
The consistent level of play and dominance proven by MRU, had the Cougars within the top 10 since the opening weekend. They also consistently sat inside the national top five ranking for the majority of the campaign, peaking as high as second.
MRU ended the season with a 15-7 record heading into the Canada West playoffs, which also meant that the Cougars would have hosting privileges for the first time since joining U SPORTS.
On top of finishing the with the best regular season in Cougars volleyball university program history, MRU left an historic mark as fifth-year outside Tyler Schmidt statistically dominated the league earning him the position of all-time leader in kills and points for the Canada West Conference.
Schmidt was also named a first-team all-star after putting up 318 kills, 378.5 points, 28 service aces along with an impressive 115 digs on defense.
Fifth-year Tanner Greves got the nod as a second-team all-star. Greves had 650 assists, averaging 9.56 assists per set which ranked him fourth in Canada West.
Finally, rookie Luis Lange was the third men's volleyball player to be named an all-star in Canada West as he was placed on the all-rookie team. In his first season with the Cougars, Lange racked up just over 100 kills, 144.5 points and 56 total blocks.
In the Canada West quarter-finals that saw a rematch from the final weekend of the regular season, the Cougars swept no.8 Saskatchewan Huskies and completed the move onto even more uncharted territory.
The Cougars advanced to the semi-finals and drew the top-ranked Brandon Bobcats.
Brandon carried a 20-2 record as the nation's number one volleyball program during regular season action, but the two losses came at the hands of the Cougars. MRU looked to be the kryptonite to the Bobcat dominance, stealing a 3-0 decision in game one.
The Bobcats however, responded ferociously and won the final two games to move onto the Canada West finals and officially qualify for nationals. Brandon also went on to win the Canada West conference finals.
MRU's chances of qualifying were in the balance of the U SPORTS ranking algorithm which unofficially saw the Cougars clinch a berth in nationals, pending a Trinity Western win or a MacMaster win in their respective semi-final series.
The Cougars' matchup against familiar foe Alberta is set to take place Friday Mar. 15 with first serve at 1:00 p.m. MST.
The action can be caught on usports.live.