DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
Larry McKay has never been shy about shuffling his lineup and with the biggest matches of the season on the horizon for the Winnipeg Wesmen, he's not going to start now.
McKay and the Wesmen men's volleyball team will face off against the No. 1-ranked Trinity Western Spartans in a best-of-three Canada West conference semifinal that begins in Langley, B.C. on Thursday.
The Wesmen have shown opponents a variety of looks over the course of the season, and certainly in the past eight weeks when key injuries put the team's depth to the test, while also revealing it.
As the Wesmen prepare for the task of trying to take down the top team in Canada, McKay said he won't stop tinkering with his lineup where he sees fit.
"I won't hesitate to substitute as normal," McKay said before his team departed for the west coast. "We've got some good really performances from guys in the past and I'll look for those performances again if we need it."
McKay went so far as to sit fifth-year left side David Bommersbach in the decisive third match Sunday against Brandon, which the Wesmen went on to win. McKay said he approached Bommersbach with that possibility and the team's leading attacker handled it professionally and with a team-first mentality.
Those wondering what lineup the Wesmen put on the floor Thursday night (10 p.m. CT, canadawest.tv) will likely just have to tune in and see.
In the meantime, the Wesmen have to find ways to improve on a performance that was good enough to knock off a solid Brandon team, but will likely need to be even better to take down the Spartans.
"I don't know if it'll be good enough," McKay said. "Trinity is largely untouched this season, which is amazing. Their coach, I don't know how he's done it, but he's got a couple first-year guys starting for him and yet they still have gone through. I don't know if what we have is enough to rattle their cage, so to speak, because their cage really hasn't been rattled all season."
The Spartans put two players — setter Adam Schriemer and outside Eric Loeppky — on the Canada West first team of all-stars announced earlier this week and two more — middle blocker Jackson Howe and outside Jesse Elser — on the all-rookie team.
That's four positions with all-stars, and McKay said there are few weak points in the Spartans lineup.
"They don't have any flaws tactically so there isn't going to be a 'oh, they're weak in this area, we can attack this area,'" McKay said. "They have a general strength in virtually every area. So I think our first task is to play as well as we can with what we have. Second is if we can direct ourselves at an area and maybe with some pressure get a deterioration of play in that area, then we've got a chance to score a few more points that way."
Match 2 will go Friday at 10 p.m. CT, with Match 3, if necessary, slated for 9 p.m. CT. All matches can be seen on canadawest.tv
The winner of the series will earn a berth into nationals with the loser having to play a third-place match next week.