Photo and Story Credit: Brad McLeod - Cranbrook Townsman
The College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball program are hosting next season's PACWEST Championship and men's head coach Cisco Farrero has been working diligently to build a competitive team.
Last week, Ferraro added the final two pieces to his substantial nine-player 2018 recruiting class by going international. Joining the fray next year will be outside hitters Gustavo Bertoli and Robert Farnezi, both 6'4 talents out of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Bertoli and Farnezi both have connections to Avs middle blocker Breno Fabbri, who was recruited last year prior to Farrero's arrival and was named the team's 'Rookie of the Year' after a season in which he put up 119 kills, 57 digs and 45 blocks in 86 sets.
After the tremendous season that Fabbri had for the Avs in 2018-19, Farrero was very eager to bring in players with similar backgrounds.
"Brazil is definitely the world's strongest country in men's volleyball and a player like Breno has brought an incredible amount of skill and knowledge of the game to our program," the coach said. "Robert has an extensive resume as a youth playing on the same club as Breno and [what I saw on] video is quite exceptional. Although he has been away from the highest level of volleyball for two years, his knowledge, athletic ability and physicality are tremendous."
As for Bertoli, despite his relative youth, Farrero believes that he also has tremendous potential to succeed at the PACWEST level.
"Adding players who have played for Sesi-SP in their teenage years brings a guarantee of high volleyball IQ," he said. "Gustavo is a strong all-around player [and] has a very explosive shoulder but also has great control on his shots… I believe his style of play will be perfect for our program."
Beyond the strength of their volleyball program, Farrero says that a lot of credit in bringing in these players has to go to the reputation and hard work of College of the Rockies.
"I'm definitely excited for about group for next season," Farrero said. "Our seven returning players made big strides this year and in our post-season training [while] our nine incoming athletes are all looking to make an impact as [well]. We will have [a lot] of talented lineup options with a number of players that can play multiple positions."
The coach added that the larger roster will also give them crucial depth for their four-game road trips and will allow practice sessions to be more competitive, with the athletes pushing each other to reach new heights not just on the court, but in the weight room and the classroom.
While at the conclusion of this past season, the Avs lost veteran libero Blake Thomson, senior outside hitter Zach James, third-year outside hitter Julio Lins and sophomore setter Matt Lavery, the Avs still have Fabbri, outside hitter Matt Cespedes, outside hitter Kyle Butchart, middle blocker Brad Spurge, setter Chris Dzioba, libero Jireh Lastimosa and middle blocker Alex Avery.
Incoming players include three local products — Caleb Peters and Quinn Grist from Cranbrook, and Mark Armstrong from Creston — as well as four other Canadian prospects: Reece Wilson from Manitoba, Hudson Goertz from Saskatchewan, Tim Kelly from Alberta and Keaton Woods from BC.
"I'm extremely happy with our group coming in," Farrero said. "I started by focusing on the talent in the East Kootenay region that I felt could make an impact on our team [and] then was able to utilize connections in other provinces and within BC. Each of these seven Canadian athletes make our program better as we have solidified each of the positions."
After squeaking into the playoffs this past season in sixth place out of seven teams, Farrero is confident that the Avs can take another step with a reinvigorated and restocked lineup.
The 2017-18 COTR Avs season is set to begin in October and will conclude with the PACWEST Championship, being hosted in Cranbrook in February 2019.