Misfit Lethbridge Kodiaks volleyball team ranked second in Canada

The Lethbridge College Kodiaks celebrate a win over Olds College on November 23, 2018. Photo Courtesy: Lethbridge Kodiaks

There is something special unfolding with a group of young men on a sports team in Lethbridge, Alta. Through 16 regular season games, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s volleyball team has yet to lose. A feat even the players didn’t think was possible.

“I mean, you can’t really expect to go 16 and 0 in a division as tough as the (ACAC) south,” Kodiaks middle blocker Michael Svab said. “It’s been really good for us to play this well. It’s bringing us a lot of confidence to the whole team knowing we can achieve that.”

WATCH: The Lethbridge College Men’s Volleyball team won their first playoff game in history Thursday night. As Matt Battochio explains, they received a big boost from some fellow Kodiaks athletes.

Click to play video 'Kodiaks athletes come together in historic volleyball win' Kodiaks athletes come together in historic volleyball win
Kodiaks athletes come together in historic volleyball win – Feb 23, 2018

The team’s dominant play has them ranked second in the country, behind only the Fanshawe Falcons in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national rankings.

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The most impressive part about their run might just be how far the Kodiaks have come over the years.

“It’s one of the really cool sports stories that I’ve been a part of,” Kodiaks head coach Greg Gibos said. “If you turn the calendar back three years ago, we got the program with nine guys. We still had to have open tryouts. There were guys like Matt Primrose, Zach Wikenheiser, Tony Albizzati, guys that have been real leaders for us, were guys that were told ‘no’. They were told ‘there isn’t a volleyball post-secondary career for you’.”

The group of misfits features 14 players from southern Alberta, three walk-on starters, and no international recruits.

“The success comes from belief in one another and belief in our group. These guys would do anything for each other,” Gibos said. “And I think you’re really starting to see that. In moments where you could break, we’re not. And I think that’s because they actually do love each other. “

That’s not to say the Kodiaks are devoid of talent. Even believing that would be considered treasonous in the land of Canadian Volleyball. Sure, they are a group of imperfect parts who are perfect together. And yes, they do call themselves ‘The band of idiots.’

But, this is also a team that features two of the top players in Canada.

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“For the last couple of years you can’t talk about the Kodiaks without Dax Whitehead and Carter Hansen,” Gibos said. “Dax is 21 kills away from being the all-time college career kills leader. He’s definitely going to go down as the most potent killer in college history. Hansen has been our stability for the last bit here. He’s second in the league in kills and he’s quickly charging his way to a thousand career kills.”

WATCH: In Global Lethbridge’s weekend sports recap, a Lethbridge Hurricanes goaltender leaves the team and the Lethbridge Kodiaks Men’s volleyball team remains unbeaten through sixteen ACAC games.

Click to play video 'Global Lethbridge Sports Recap: Jan. 21' Global Lethbridge Sports Recap: Jan. 21
Global Lethbridge Sports Recap: Jan. 21 – Jan 21, 2019

Gibos believes the team could be part of trickle-down effect for elite volleyball in the region.

“It’s hard not to get emotional talking about it. The players have all invested so much. And really volleyball in southern Alberta I think you’re starting to see a wave of it on the men’s side for us for sure,” Gibos said. “The U-18 team got a silver medal at provincials. We have more athletes than we’ve ever had at the U16 and U17 level. It’s a direct result of some of the guys in this gym being out in the community and carrying a sense of pride in this program. I’m just so humbled to be a part of this.”

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So just how long can the winning streak run? How far can the Kodiaks go? Well, one thing is clear: the expectations they have for themselves have changed.

“Last year, our whole goal was to get a playoff win. We all know that. The program had never won a playoff game on the ‘A’ side before,” Gibos said. “It’s the same group of guys and, for us, the mindset has changed. Getting the one win last year was great, but goals are bigger now. For us, there’s nothing more that this group wants to do than hang a volleyball banner in this gym. We’ve talked a lot about leaving that legacy behind.”

The ACAC leading Kodiaks have eight games left in the regular season. The team will aim to run their win streak to 17 when they play Briercrest College on Friday.

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