By Ty Gour

The men’s volleyball team finished the 2019-20 season with a very strong 20-4 record, which tied for the best record in the entire ACAC and best in the north.

Heading into this season, the Ooks men’s volleyball team came in with something to prove. Coming off a disappointing 0-2 showing when they hosted provincials last season, and bringing on long time assistant Greg Gulash as their new head coach, this team now had an awful lot of motivation to get them to new heights.

Their new record is something that, according to Gulash, the NAIT men’s program has not accomplished in 28 years. A big part of this success was their incredible performance at home.

When they were at home in The Den, they performed spectacularly with an 11-1 record to show for.

Man sets volleyball over net

Photo by Railene Hooper

“We just want to thank the fans for their support. It was a really good year in our home gym and a tough atmosphere for a lot of teams to play in,” said 4th year outside Jonathan Shapka.

“Those 20 wins were as much a credit to them as it was the guys on and off the floor,” Shapka said.

Thus, they were on their way to the windy city of Lethbridge with hopes to capture their provincial title since the 1976-77 season. Their first opponent in their way was Briercrest College, a team based out of Caronport, Saskatchewan who got into the tournament as the #4 seed in the ACAC South division.

Unfortunately, on that fateful Thursday afternoon, the Ooks championship run was over just as quickly as it started. Briercrest gave NAIT all they could handle and more as they dispatched them from the tournament in 4 sets.

While many of the Ooks will be returning next year looking to build onto the winning and fun-loving culture that has been created here, not all will have that luxury.

This loss did spell the end to the college careers of 5th year veterans Oliver McSwain and Spencer Fisher.

While McSwain’s volleyball career may be taking a backseat, he certainly hopes he isn’t finished with the game. Should the opportunity present itself, he has interest in giving back to the volleyball community in his home of the Northwest Territories.

According to McSwain, the season only lasts one month up north, significantly shorter than the year round programs available elsewhere, which presents a challenge for players trying to compete with players from the rest of the country. Because of this, he would like to create a year round program for the kids up there in order to provide equal opportunity.

As for Fisher, he plans on giving back to the community by coaching younger club teams and plans on continuing to play the game recreationally.

Despite the disappointing finish here in Lethbridge, these Ooks certainly haven’t lost their mojo with 2nd year setter Karter Godin saying it best:
“We’ll be back next year baby!”