By: Taylor Browne/GCU Staff
One set shy of the conference title.
Following a fifth-place finish in the Las Vegas Invitational in January, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Club Volleyball team rebounded to clinch a second-place finish in the Mountain West Volleyball Conference Tournament Saturday at the Canyon Activity Center on the GCU campus. Despite a solid performance in the tournaments’ pool play round, the Lopes fell short in a three-set championship defeat[ against Utah Valley University’s “A” team.
“The championship game was intense, and held a lot of pressure,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Wellington Afusia. “Being able to play through that pressure really showed our team’s strength.”
To open up the tournament, the Lopes were in a pool play bracket with Utah State University “B”, Colorado State University, Utah Valley University “B” team, and Utah Valley University “A”. The Lopes won three of the four matches.
Utah Valley University “A” team was the Lopes’ only defeat in pool play, losing in three sets, 26-24, 20-25, and 10-15.
“They caught us off guard,” said Afusia. “We didn’t expect them to push back as hard as they did.”
On Saturday, the Lopes entered the quarterfinals and swept UNLV in a two-set victory (25-22, 25-20). In the semifinals, the Lopes narrowly swept Air Force, 25-23, 25-23, which put them to the championship match. The Lopes battled back after losing the first set, 25-21, to win the second set, 25-17. The final set almost went to extras before UVU prevailed, 15-13.
“The energy levels were high,” said Afusia. “We had our women’s club volleyball team cheering us on, and the dynamic of the game was completely different from the first time we played Utah Valley.”
The Lopes had trouble finding the grit they needed to come out with a championship win, but still found improvement with their overall game performance.
“We are more disciplined,” said Afusia. “Our passing and our serve-receive was much stronger, and we were able to execute our offense.”
The Lopes now hope that their past performance this weekend will be good enough to earn them a birth at the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Nationals April 18-20.