BY AVOLIN SEN / STAFF WRITER
The Augustana Vikings sports teams for the 2022/23 seasons include basketball, curling, cross-country running, hockey (men’s), soccer (women’s), indoor track, nordic ski and volleyball. This season, the Vikings have been victorious in many fields. The Vikings Women’s Basketball team recently brought home a win over the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens. The same can be said for the Men’s Hockey team, who won a game against the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings in a split series, falling 6-3, before returning home for a Saturday night match-up in front of Vikings fans for a 4-3 win.
Despite the many wins in many of the sports offered by Augustana, we have unfortunately been having a poor streak of losses for the men’s volleyball team. I wanted to find out why such was the case, so I took the opportunity to interview two members of our team: Boris Kuljanin, one of the outside hitters, and our very own team captain and libero, Bryce Boan.
I wanted to delve into the motivation behind what got the two players into volleyball. “My dad tried to get me into it,” said Bryce. “I was more of a hockey player and a soccer player and things like that. And then in grade eight, I made the volleyball team, and it was fun, you know, but I didn’t care too much for it, but it made me happy and I grew to enjoy it. It was fun to play with buddies. I started playing club because it was something I could keep doing all year round during school. And I got better at it. Something that really hooked me onto volleyball and kept me going is just the emotional impact that this game holds. It has a lot more than other sports just because you’re right there at that moment. And when it’s neck and neck, and somebody thunders down, that feeling of adrenaline and high blood soars and lifts you up. It’s a feeling I’ve never felt. So that got me hooked. And I’ve been pushing and striving after that feeling ever since.”
Boris’s interest in the sport arose from his peers from high school. “I would say for myself, a lot of it had to do with being with my friends. We had a lot of fun together and grew as a group throughout high school. So for me, that really became a feeling of belonging and community. For me, that was my childhood.”
We then got to the elephant in the room. Despite the rigorous training and dedication for volleyball, why had we still fallen behind our opponents? Both team members answered honestly, to their credit, discussing their strengths and weaknesses. “So we’ve had a tough schedule to start this year, minus our first game against Concordia,” Boris began, finding the opponents quite formidable. “We played against Kings University, NAIT and Red Deer for the next three games. Red Deer placed first in provincials last year. NAIT was second, and Kings got the bronze. We’ve played back to back, which doesn’t help–during the first game against Concordia at home, the first game of the season, our nerves were running a little bit. I feel like we played well. But in the first game, nerves got to us a little bit, I think. But we are seeing a lot of good things in each game, especially playing those last three high-level teams where we see good things, and we are trying to build off that, and we also see some bad things that we might need to fix. But again, it’s still early.”
Bryce believed it was due to the common mistakes made by the team. “I would say closing out late in the game when we get to about 20 points like we’ll be giving with teams. Then we’ll make a lot of unforced errors, like on our side serving some hitting errors, and slight miscommunications that kind of just–again, playing against those big teams is really tough. We can’t give them anything. Otherwise, they’ll just run with it. And then it’s very tough for us to climb back. Then, late in the game, there are only so many points you can give up until they win the set.“ Bryce replied.
Fortunately, the team has been prepping well to ensure a win and tackle these obstacles. Bryce states that the team is doing a “better job this year of planning for every team they’re playing against.” They meet once a week and go over the film to create a plan for the next weekend against the opposing team. “We replay them twice during the weekend. So after the first game, we’ll have a little debrief and see what we need to adjust and then we’ll go on from there. We’ll see what to do in the next game. So goal wise, it would be to show that despite our record, we can still hang with many teams. And that shows in a lot of our sets. Like last night against Red Deer, we were neck and neck with them in that first and second set. We had a lead, but we were closed out at the end.
The team worked hard over the summer to make this a successful season, hiring a coach to virtually work through training schedules. “We were all following a training program over the summer, which was pretty good. We all sent videos to show our progress through chats together. So that was nice as it held us accountable over the summer. Even though we didn’t get to see each other, we still knew what everyone was up to.”
Overall, I believe our team still has a good shot this season to bring us wins. While interviewing the two, I could feel their passion for the sport, the drive and resilience required to become fine athletes and dedicate their lives to the game, and I hope this will translate well in the oncoming matches. As fellow students of Augustana, we can channel our inner school spirit and cheer on our team at the next home game on November 18th!
Boris Kuljanin, left, and Bryce Boan, members of the Augustana Vikings Volleyball team. Photos submitted.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.