Following Forsyth, DeGroot aims even higher

The men’s volleyball team prepares to fight for another OUA championship 

DeGroot set the expectations for his sophomore season high.

Coming off an exceptional season—their best since  2011-12—the men’s volleyball team is preparing for another shot at the national championship. 

This past year, their quest for the USPORTS title culminated with a fifth-place finish after winning the Forsyth Cup as OUA champions. Sophomore Head Coach Gabe DeGroot discussed the team’s run in a phone interview with The Journal. 

“There were many players that stood out this year, who were driving forces in the team’s OUA success,” DeGroot said. 

Zac Hutcheson stepped up offensively en route to a First Team OUA All-Star selection. Adam Boljkovac had a phenomenal year as well, resulting in him being named as a Second Team All-Star. As well, Zane Grossinger’s star continued to rise as he led the OUA in assists with 718—earning him a First Team nod.

DeGroot—named OUA Coach of the Year in just his first season as a head coach—described how it felt to find quick success with the team. 

“[It was] a pretty special year. The biggest thing for me was being part of a group of athletes and creating a team culture and seeing them be successful.”

As far as personal goals, DeGroot wanted to put emphasis on fine tuning the team’s culture, making it a welcoming environment.

DeGroot considers it vital for the team to be inclusive. He said inclusivity encourages growth for players of all ages—a holistic approach which contributed to the rapid progress of the rookies.

“Our superstars, point scorers aren’t the only ones on the court.”

DeGroot, a former OUA volleyball star himself, aims to have athletes treat each other equally, admitting that this is rare at the university level.

“Eliminating that [hierarchy] culture of university sports is a piece of what we are doing.” 

According to DeGroot, the other piece is putting in work over the summer to build individual skills and team chemistry in order to make the next step forward when the 2019-2020 season rolls around.

Specifically, the team is looking to get better defending at the net: “Aiming to win national games, we need to improve blocking; some of that just comes from experience. We should be able to make progress in that area as we mature.”

Being able to put himself in the athlete’s shoes has helped DeGroot shift the team away from the typical hierarchy of university sports culture. 

“I try, as a coach, not to define the roles for the team too much,” he said, evidence of his experience as an award-winning libero influencing his coaching.

With much of their core returning, the Gaels will aim to build on last year’s barnstorming tour of the OUA by finding their stroke on the national stage.

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