The NAIT Ooks men’s volleyball team travelled north to Fort McMurray for the 2023 ACAC men’s volleyball playoffs.. The team was ranked third in the north coming into the weekend and was ready to make a run for the title.
Game 1: #3 NAIT Ooks vs. #2 Lethbridge Kodiaks
NAIT’s quarter-final match-up was against the second seed in the south, the Lethbridge Kodiaks. To outside eyes, this seemed like a David vs. Goliath-type battle. But NAIT felt confident coming in as they had taken a win against the Kodiaks in October. The match started smoothly for the Ooks, as every aspect of their game was firing on all cylinders. The Ooks were able to ride the wave of momentum through the match and pull off the 3-1 win to book their ticket to the semi-finals.
In that game, many players had standout performances, but Head Coach Jordan Taylor had high praise for his two-fourth years. “It was the return of Shae McIntyre and Karter Godin from injury that really elevated our play. [McIntyre] was incredibly efficient offensively with 14 kills and only two errors. Karter Godin brought leadership, swagger and confidence to our group, which was much needed against Lethbridge.”
Other standouts included Carter Hills and Jared Krogen. Hills had a big-time match on the right side with 13 kills and four blocks, while NAIT’s player of the game, Jared Krogen, led the backcourt with 16 digs and two assists.
Game 2: #3 NAIT Ooks vs. #4 Briercrest Clippers
After taking down the fourth-ranked team in the country, the Ooks faced the fourth seed in the ACAC south, the Briercrest Clippers. The Clippers had won the conference match-up and had the leg up going into the match.
After a first-set loss, the Ooks had one of their best sets of the year as they hit .684 and started blocking more balls. Unfortunately, their play began to decline in the latter half of the match. During their timeouts, they did their best to regroup.
“We would all look at each other and ask how much we want it and how much we were willing to give,” said Hills. However, their final pushes were not enough as they fell to the Briercrest Clippers 3-1.
In that game, Felix Dufour and Shae McIntyre had eight kills apiece. Karter Godin dished out a game-high 31 assists, and NAIT’s player of the game, middle blocker Ross Bishop, chipped in six kills and one block.
Game 3: #3 NAIT Ooks vs. #2 Keyano Huskies
After the tough semi-final loss, the group had a good conversation before their bronze medal game.
“After the semi-loss, we just talked about enjoying the last day of the season, and to live in the moment together one last time,” said Taylor. “For us, it was less about winning bronze, and more about celebrating a great season together.”
In that final game, the Ooks were matched up against the Keyano Huskies, who had won both conference meetings. This gave Keyano the upper hand coming in. NAIT was also going in without star outside Shae McIntyre, who sustained an injury in the semi-final. With all of these obstacles, the Ooks had a huge climb ahead of them to win the bronze medal.
The Ooks gave Keyano a fight in the first set, but they ended up losing 28-26. Ultimately, the Ooks fell victim to their errors in the second two sets and lost the match 3-0.
In the Ooks’ final game of 2022-2023, Carter Hills and Daniel Ward led the team with 7 kills each. Bishop had four blocks and Krogen had seven digs in his last match as a NAIT Ook.
Hills, Bishop, McIntyre and Krogen earned all-conference awards, while Hills was also named to the tournament’s all-star team.
Even though the team did not come away with a medal, Jordan Taylor had nothing but good things to say about his team. “It was such a rewarding experience to coach this group. It is no question they are incredibly talented but more importantly, they are great people. They made it very enjoyable and easy for our coaching staff to show up to work every day, and I cannot thank them enough for their service.”