Spartans facing world’s best
Imagine the Langley Rivermen facing off against the Vancouver Canucks or the Langley Rams playing the Green Bay Packers. Maybe the Trinity Western Spartans soccer team up against Manchester United or the basketball team hitting the hardwood against the Los Angeles Lakers. Or the Langley Blaze taking on the New York Yankees.
While these local Langley teams do feature some top-level athletes, that is nothing compared to playing professional athletes.
And this is what awaits the Trinity Western men’s volleyball team.
“We go in with eyes wide open,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson.
The Spartans leave for Doha, Qatar tomorrow (Oct. 5) where they will represent Canada at the FIVB club world volleyball championships.
They were chosen by NORCECA (North America, Central America and Caribbean) to represent the region at the eight-team tournament, which features the world’s best club teams, including the two-time defending champions Trentino from Italy and the Russian champion Zenit Kazan.
“These are the best players in the world,” Josephson said.
“These are the guys we watch on YouTube, the guys they model their games after.
“To get the chance to be on the same floor as them, play against their heroes, is an awesome learning experience for us.”
The players do not have any illusions of pulling off a Cinderella upset, or of having their confidence hurt by showing badly.
“We are not really concerned about having our confidence shattered,” said Marc Howatson. “It is just a good chance to see what the best players in the world are like, what we can strive for.”
The team will focus on improvement and learning.
“They are physically and experience-wise just way better than us,” Howatson said.
“We just go in worrying about our own side of the net and work on things we need to work on.”
The chance to attend the tournament came out of the blue.
With no pro teams in North America, last year the Americans sent a squad of their full-time national training centre players.
This year, that opportunity was given to the Canadians. But with the national team players in Mexico for the Pan American Games, Trinity Westen was given the opportunity to attend as the defending Canadian Interuniversity Sport national champions.
“The stars aligned perfectly for this opportunity so we are hoping to make the most of it,” Josephson said.
The Spartans are not going into the tournament with any grand illusions of knocking off the world’s best.
“We don’t have any expectations; we know we are out-matched badly,” the coach said.
“We are hoping to get double figures every set. If we get to 10 points, we are holding our own.”
The team will use this as a learning experience.
“We hope this will set the standard for us for how to train when we get back,” Josephson said. “Once they see what the world’s best players look like, now we know how far we have to go to push towards that.”
The world championships run from Oct. 8-14.
Following the team’s return, they will prepare for the start of the Canada West regular season, which opens Oct. 28.