International Experience sets Lancer men’s volleyball on top

By: Lauren Breadner

An experience of a lifetime. This past summer, four representatives from the Lancer men’s volleyball program were selected to participate in the 2017 International University Sports Federation (FISU) Summer Universiade Games in Taipei, Taiwan.

Similar to the Olympics, FISU was formed to promote sports values and encourage sports practice in harmony with the university spirit. Each country’s national governing body for university athletics selects coaches and athletes to represent them in different sports at each Universiade. Every two years, FISU stages a summer and winter Universiade festival for student-athletes to compete in. This year, the Summer Universiade Games were held in Taipei and consisted of 13 different sports including athletics, basketball, fencing, football, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, judo, swimming, diving, water polo, table-tennis, tennis, and volleyball.

Head Coach of the Lancers men’s volleyball team, James Gravelle, was selected by U Sports to be the head coach of the Canada Summer Universiade Games men’s volleyball team.

“It is a once in a lifetime experience, you have to do it,” Gravelle said of the invitation. “My wife was so supportive and convinced me that this is something that I should do.”

Upon being selected as the head coach, Coach Gravelle, accompanied by his assistant coaches, Will Alexander (Windsor) and Eric Yung (Nipissing), selected 12 of the top volleyball players from universities and colleges across Canada. Among his selections were Lancer outside hitter, Pierce Johnson, and middle, Johnathan Moate.

“Having the chance to play with the other guys on our team was really awesome,” Moate reflected. “They are some of the best players in U Sports and learning from them and sharing experiences was really good for building skill.”

During their time in Taipei, Team Canada won four and lost four matches, finishing 11 out of 22 teams. The team found that the level of play internationally differs very much from the style of volleyball that Canada plays.

“A lot of the Asian countries we played, specifically the Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) team, played a much quicker game,” Johnson said. “They were super technical and our game was much different than that.”

Coach Gravelle hopes that Moate and Johnson will be able to apply their international volleyball experience to this season as the Lancers set their sights on playoffs.

“Taking Pierce [Johnson] and John [Moate] on the trip really accelerated the development of their skill, especially Pierce,” Coach Gravelle stated. “He was the youngest player on the Team Canada roster and only played a little bit. He is smart and he watched, learned and took everything in and so far, it is paying off this season.”

As the captain of the Lancers, Moate is hoping to bring a similar culture as the one he was a part of with Team Canada.

“The bond with our FISU games team was really strong and as captain of the Lancers this year, I am trying to structure a better team connection,” Moate said. “This year team unity has been a bigger goal for me this year.”

The Lancers started their season on October 27 against Waterloo Warriors and Guelph Gryphons, Johnson recorded 41 kills to start his season and Moate, eight kills and nine blocks.

“It is a little surprising the success they have had so quickly,” Coach Gravelle says about his athletes. “But I think it is a direct correlation to their time in Taipei.”

The Lancers will play their home opener on Saturday, November 11 against the McMaster Marauders at 3 pm in the St. Denis Centre. With knowledge and skills learned at the Summer Universiade Games, Moate and Pierce will be looking to serve up some results against the reigning Ontario University Athletics champions.

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