Taking over as head coach of the Cambrian College men’s volleyball team prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, in addition to maintaining the same role with the Golden Shield women’s team, Dale Beausoleil was more than a little anxious to unveil the fruits of his recruiting labour.
A year and a half later, more than a little anxious doesn’t come close to capturing the anticipation with which the highly acclaimed coach awaits a chance to unleash his Northern-built squad upon OCAA opponents.
Who can blame him?
In the five years dating back to the 2015-2016 season, Cambrian men’s volleyball have averaged exactly one victory a year, never exceeding more than two and posting 0-18 campaigns both six years ago, as well as the most recent schedule that was contested in 2019-20.
Yet as he prepared to take to the floor this fall, Beausoleil could look to build around a core that included Lo-Ellen Park graduate and former Shield attacker Stephen Brown (6-foot-3), Team Ontario beach volleyball talent Sven Trodel (6-5), Humber recruit returning home Jason Diotte (6-8) and former Lasalle Secondary multi-sport star Kurtis Brisebois (6-1).
Throw in a healthy mix of former Lancers (beyond those already mentioned), North Bay native and former Fanshawe setter Jack Daley, as well as a solid supporting cast of younger local talent (Miguel Levac, Justin Lamontagne) and one can easily make the case that, on paper at least, this is the most talented men’s team Cambrian has been able to field in the past decade or more. If only this talent can take to the field — or court, more precisely.
“It was easy to get the boys excited to play because they were finally back in the gym,” said Beausoleil, reminiscing to early fall 2021, at which time the OCAA allowed teams a maximum of five exhibition matches. “You could see that the kids were excited to establish us almost like a new program.”
Unfortunately, where collegiate regular-season volleyball action took place in October and November, pretty much from coast to coast in Canada, Ontario was the outlier. The schedule, which was to have started in early January, then fell victim to the current lockdown. Recent news has Beausoleil optimistic that some semblance of a season can be squeezed in, though he knows that time is limited.
Regardless, he will gladly tackle the challenge of attempting to reinvigorate his youngish troops.
“We were able to have some exhibition matches and that was exciting,” said Beausoleil, who is joined on the Cambrian men’s coaching staff by his brother, Stephen, as well as Jonathan Hoadley and Francisco Murphy. “But then you could see the excitement start to wear off when we could not have any more exhibition matches.
“We weren’t allowed to go to North Bay; North Bay wasn’t allowed to come to us. You could see a little bit of a change in both the boys and girls’ teams — there just wasn’t as much to look forward to.”
Rounding out the Cambrian roster, beyond the core that have been mentioned above, are David Pigozzo, Logan Nicholls, Liam Flaherty, Josh Campbell, Juan Molina, Deacon MacDonald, Zachary Degagne and Ashton Martel.
“They’re pretty strong offensively — we’ve got some boys who can really put the ball down.”
And with the likes of Brown, Daley, Trodel and Brisebois all in their mid-20s, Beausoleil is enjoying a very different look and feel to the team that what he would have witnessed over the many years of watching the Cambrian men play immediately on the heels on his women’s team’s games.
“It totally changes your team dynamic,” he said. “It’s amazing to have that kind of leadership, that kind of experience. It’s not just that they are physically more mature, it’s that brain part too, just understanding the game that much better. There is so much going on for that wide-eyed 17-year-old coming in.
“When you have these guys that have all of this life experience, they’re able to manage so much more: the schooling, the playing, the social aspect.”
Hoping beyond all hope that there is a 2022 OCAA season, even an abbreviated one, Beausoleil is as empathetic as they come, sharing the angst of the young men so wanting to compete.
“I’m hoping that they stick it out and they get that opportunity to play,” he stated. “They are getting outside on the rinks, downstairs doing workouts in the basement — at least those that have weights and stuff — but it’s definitely not the same.
“We had plans to be in the gym over the holidays — and then we got shut down. You need to be in the gym, you need to be in the weight room.”
Yet through it all, the positivity that surrounds Dale Beausoleil continues to shine through. If thirty years of collegiate coaching has jaded the affable volleyball conversationalist, it certainly doesn’t show.
“I always tell my players that you have to enjoy what you’re doing — and I enjoy what I’m doing, still,” he proclaimed. “I’ve had so much fun doing both programs.”
Enjoying and learning, all in the same setting.
“We’ve actually done quite of bit of combining practices with both teams. There are times when I can do stuff together. It’s neat and it’s different.”
But it’s not game play — and that, more than anything, is what the Cambrian men are waiting for to show OCAA volleyball fans just what they have.