South Surrey’s Graeme Hughes (centre, No. 6) and Malachi McMullin (No. 14) celebrate with their teammates after the Capilano Blues won a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association men’s volleyball title Saturday in New Brunswick. ( photo)

Surrey coach, players help Capilano Blues win national men’s volleyball title

North Vancouver university captures first CCAA volleyball crown in school history

Dave Dooley’s spring break plans were cut short this week due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, but the South Surrey volleyball coach isn’t letting a shortened vacation dampen his mood.

On Saturday at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B., the Capilano University Blues men’s volleyball team – of which Dooley is the head coach – captured the school’s first-ever Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national championship, defeating Etobicoke, Ont.’s Humber College in straight sets.

On Sunday, the Capilano players – including Malachi McMullin (Earl Marriott Secondary), Graeme Hughes (Elgin Park) and Kyle Cook (Clayton Heights) from Surrey – returned home to B.C., while Dooley and his wife stayed behind, intent on spending spring break in the Maritimes.

“Our plan was to enjoy spring break here, but then we figured with all that’s going on, it was best to change our flights and come home,” he explained.

“But I’m still coming home with a gold medal around my neck, so I can’t complain.”

Twice before – in 2004 and ‘05 – the Blues advanced to the men’s volleyball national final, only to fall short, losing both times to Red Deer College, a perennial CCAA powerhouse that has three gold and two silver medals in the past seven years.

This year, however, the North Vancouver school got the better of their Alberta rivals in the national semifinal, winning 3-2 after originally falling behind 2-1. Capilano won the final set 15-13.

“The real final for us was that semifinal,” explained Dooley, a former EMS volleyball coach who also works with South Surrey’s Seaside Volleyball Club. “It was a great match.”

Though they were on the ropes against Red Deer early, the Blues – led by Abbotsford twins Ben and Simon Friesen – had by that point become accustomed to playing catch up. In PACWEST playoffs earlier in the season, Capilano trailed in both semifinals and the finals, against Vancouver Island University and Camosun, respectively, but each time managed to win in five sets.

“Against Camosun, they even had two match points, and we had lost either, we wouldn’t have even gone to nationals,” said Dooley. “If you do the math, it’s seven sets (including nationals) where, had we lost even a single one, our season would’ve been over.

“They’re a really tough bunch. They have a lot of belief in themselves and in each other. I think we really needed that to get through all those big-pressure situations.”

In the championship game against Humber, the Dooley-coached side cruised to the win, not only winning in three straight but also never allowing the Ontario team to reach 20 points in a given set.

Prior to lining up against Capilano, Humber College was undefeated, and had not even dropped a set since November, Dooley noted.

“I don’t think a lot of people expected us to win, and definitely didn’t expect us to win in such a lopsided fashion,” he said.

“We’re all obviously pretty pumped.”

Saturday was also a special day on a personal level for Dooley, who had his late brother Patrick on his mind.

Patrick, who was a golfer and volleyball player at Elgin Park Secondary, passed away in 2008, at age 16, from viral encepthalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain.

“His birthday is March 14,” Dave said. “We won it on his birthday.”

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