Men’s volleyball has become one of the school’s most successful athletic programs, with trips to the OUA semifinals in the past five years and entrance into the CIS National Championships the past two years. This season sees a new but familiar face leading the charge, as assistant head coach, Shayne White takes the helm as head coach while last year’s head coach Chris Lawson, will take on the role as assistant head coach.
White joined the team five years ago and has been a fundamental source of their success. He has a rich coaching background spending time with the Laurier Golden Hawks volleyball program, the Ontario Volleyball Association, and as a head coach during the Canada Games.
“It’s something that Chris and I have talked about for a few years and I think it was just timing,” said White. “Chris had two replacement knee surgeries, just recently had [his] first grandkid so [he’s] spending time with him. He didn’t wanna really be part of the full time requirements and he just likes the [team] engine and doing the coaching clinics so we found a role that fits his needs best.”
Lawson joined the men’s program nine years ago as the head coach and has led the team to the playoffs every season. He finished his head coaching tenure with an impressive 109-71 regular season record and laid the foundation down for what continues to be an established, while still improving volleyball program.
Each time the team has made it to the CIS National Championships, they were eliminated in the first round, which sets up a clear goal for them this season. “We’re talking about trying to get back to the OUA finals and win a banner. We want to win a first round match at nationals, so pretty lofty expectations, but we think we have some good pieces to the puzzle,” said White.
The team lost a few integral puzzle pieces this offseason and will look to veterans and some fresh first-years to fill in the gaps. Last year’s starting libero and OUA first-team all star, Erich Woolley, completed his five years of playing eligibility. Same goes for last year’s starting outside hitter, Greg Simone, who now joins the team as an assistant coach.
Last year’s starting setter Gibson Graham was projected to return this year for his fourth season, but an accident this summer led to an ankle injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire year. “It was just a freak accident in the summertime. Whenever you unexpectedly lose someone, it’s always a bit of a shock,” said White.
Fourth-year libero Philippe Piche who served as Woolley’s backup for most of his time on the team will now get the chance to start. Third-year setter Nikola Dimitrijevic will be the team’s starting setter moving forward. He filled in as a starter for Graham during a few games last year, so a starter’s workload is nothing new to him. White says he has a lot of options to fill in the gap at outside hitter, but he will look to first year player Kevin LeBreux, a 6-11 hitter who was highly-touted coming out of high school.
Returning to the starting lineup is newly appointed team captain Jordan McConkey, OUA first-team all-star right side hitter Braden Cok, and third-year middle Trevor Coathup. Challenging Coathup for the other starting middle spot will be 6-10 first-year Matthew Mawdsley, another big recruit coming out of high school.
The team is currently ranked 11th in the country and second in the OUA to a powerhouse McMaster Marauders team, who bested them in the OUA semi-finals and the first round of the CIS National Championships last year. The Marauders have always posed themselves as a nearly impossible mountain to climb for the Warriors.
The men’s volleyball team starts their regular season Nov. 4 when they will travel to Windsor to face off against the Lancers.