Dalhousie Tigers men’s volleyball coach Dan Ota has been coaching with the team longer than some of his current athletes have even been alive. Ota is in his 19thseason with the team, and almost all of those 19 seasons have been championship winning years, 14 of them to be exact.
As one could expect, championship seasons are usually ones that are filled with wins. Ota currently boasts a 248-51 regular season win-loss record, giving him an exceptional 83% winning percentage in conference play. He also touts an overall career winning percentage of 70% and is just five wins away from reaching 400 career wins as the 2017-2018 season is about to begin.
Ota is modest in his accomplishments, and speaks highly of the teams that have achieved those wins along with him.
"We have been winning consistently for a long time," says Ota. "I can appreciate the success a lot more at this point in my career as the landscape is more competitive than it's ever been before. We also used to play more matches in my earlier years, but now it's tough to run exhibition events as teams out west and in Ontario are so busy with bigger league schedules. There were years where we won 30 matches in a season - now we're lucky if we even play close to 30 matches in an entire season."
This rich history of winning is an excellent recruiting tool to bring in the best talent possible year after year from across the country, which is how strong programs are built.
"I think that our success attracts talented student-athletes to our program. When prospective recruits look at our program's track record and see the number of conference championships we have won, it certainly helps to get a conversation started. When you can recruit great people, I think that you can accomplish great things as a team."
In recent years, the AUS conference has only had three teams, Dalhousie, UNB and Memorial, so there are multiple AUS-RESQ Interlock events that allow the Tigers to face teams in the Quebec conference. Memorial pulled the plug on their men’s volleyball program earlier this spring, dropping the AUS conference to just two teams.
"Play in both AUS and Interlock has evolved during my career. We used to have four teams in both the AUS and RSEQ at one point, so we had a lot of variety in terms of opponents. Both Moncton and Memorial fielded pretty good teams in some years and we had some terrific battles with them. For the better part of the past decade, UNB has been our toughest opponent and we have developed a great rivalry with them."
"When the Interlock first started, it featured eight teams (4 AUS and 4 RSEQ). It was great to play all the Quebec teams in one weekend but the schedules were pretty tough as we played four matches in two days. Currently our interlock schedule is a bit easier to manage as we only play three matches over two days. Preparing to play multiple teams in a weekend can be challenging as well, and is quite different than playing the same opponent over two days as we do against AUS opponents."
The Tigers had the best record in the AUS last season at 11-6, but were unable to come away with the conference championship in the playoffs. The team will look to carry their regular season success into the playoffs this season and compete at U SPORTS national championship.
"We have a very young team so our aim is to grow and develop as the season progresses," says Ota. "I expect inconsistency in a number of areas, but I believe that our capacity to improve is high and as long as we continue to learn from our successes and mistakes, we will be a competitive team by the end of the year."
After going 1-2 to the University of Saskatchewan in a three-match series earlier this fall, the Tigers begin their quest for a 37th AUS championship hosting the first of three AUS-RSEQ Interlock events this weekend. They take on the U SPORTS No. 10 ranked Laval Friday night at 6:30pm, and will face the No. 6 ranked Montreal and Sherbrook on Saturday.
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