Hawks are bumper stumpers
By Paul Vanderhoeven
The Laurier Golden Hawks' men's volleyball coach Brett Thomas doesn't know what to make of his team's performance so far this season. The Golden Hawks are on top of the Ontario West division, but he wonders if they really belong there.
The Hawks are tied with Western and McMaster with five wins and one loss and they are the only team to beat the Mustangs in league play so far this season, but Thomas isn't convinced.
"I think first semester we kind of snuck one by them. I don't think [the Mustangs] were ready for us," Thomas said. "We were definitely a pushover in the last couple of years."
Thomas said it's pretty hard to feel confident after coming off an 0-12 season. Beating Western in the season opener was great for the Hawks, but Western exacted a bit of revenge at the Guelph tournament just before Christmas.
"I'd be very surprised if Western isn't fired up to lay a beating on us," Thomas said. "I think that's what they are going to try to do and if we can hold them off, even if we don't win the match, we can at least prove to ourselves that we are legitimate and it wasn't just a fluke first half."
After last year's dismal performance the Hawks are happy to be in a position to make the playoffs.
"I think we need two more matches to clinch a playoff spot, which if you understood the history of the Laurier volleyball program, you would see that as a major accomplishment on its own."
Third-year right-side player Kevin Shonk has made the biggest difference for the Hawks this year. He was an OUAA all-star last year and rookie of the year before that.
"He's just a very good athlete," Thomas said. "He's only six-foot-one, but he's got hops in the upper 30s [inches]. He has a 38-inch vertical."
Last year, Shonk led the country statistically and this year he's starting to come into his own.
"He pretty much typifies what I've tried to do here with the program. He wasn't a big provincial all-star coming out of high school, but he keeps getting better. He's bigger and stronger and now he's got a couple of years under his belt."
Thomas says the Golden Hawks can hold their own with the best teams in the league, but Shonk is what puts them over the top.
"He's always been our big gun and this year is no exception. Right now, he's on top of the OUAA West in points per game and kills."
All three first-place teams have lost to one of the other top three. Laurier beat Western, McMaster beat Laurier and Western beat Mac. At least one team will be knocked out of first today with Guelph at McMaster and Laurier playing Western.
"I think a lot of questions are going to be answered [today]," Thomas said. "We're pretty much taking every game as it comes and I hope we can prove to ourselves that we are a legitimate contender for a shot at the final."
Game time is 8 p.m. at Alumni Hall.