by Brett Hedges
The Lance – Sports Editor
Windsor Lancer men’s volleyball head coach James Gravelle has been named to the Volleyball Canada National men’s program summer staff.
As announced by Volleyball Canada Apr. 13, Gravelle will serve as an assistant coach with the national senior B team and will compete at the Pan Am Cup Aug. 8 through Aug. 17 2015.
“This is a dream come true and I am committed to the team’s success and the continued development of the amazing athletes who will be selected to participate,” said Gravelle. “This will also be an excellent opportunity for me to learn from some great coaches and bring that experience back to our program here at the University of Windsor for next season and beyond.”
Gravelle, a Windsor native and proud Lancers alumnus, said he will leave next week for a three-month long training camp in the Ottawa-Gatineau area along with his wife, Courtney and two daughters, Ruby, 2, and five-month-old Violet.
“I am really honored to have the chance because I am patriotic as a Canadian,” said Gravelle. “To be exposed to the athletes and coaches of the national team program is a great opportunity.”
After leaving the Lancers program as a two-time team MVP and two-time OUA West First Team All-Star from 1996-1998, Gravelle had a beach volleyball career that included a three-year run on the FIVB World Tour from 2000-02 and a spot on the Canadian National Beach Volleyball Team. Gravelle is an NCCP level two certified coach and has over 15 years of coaching experience of both indoor and beach volleyball at many levels. Locally he has coached both senior boys and girls teams at Holy Names High School to OFSAA berths, including a AAAA Provincial Bronze medal for the boys in 2011. Gravelle was a Lancers Assistant Coach from 2011-13.
Gravelle said playing for the national team and now coaching for Volleyball Canada has a full-circle feeling.
“I’ve had some feelings about putting on the maple leaf and it’s a pretty special opportunity,” said Gravelle. “I think this is big for my development as a coach, I need to get better to do justice to the athletes we have here who are working hard so I think it’s going to be great for coaching.”
The senior B team will be led by head coach Georges Laplante from Montreal, Que. Alongside Gravelle as an assistant coach is former senior national team member Louis-Pierre Mainville from Île Perrot, Que. The senior B team is scheduled to compete at the Pan Am Cup in the U.S. Aug. 8 through 17.
Since taking over the Lancers two years ago, Gravelle has re-focused the team on the fundamentals, stressing individual skill-building, defensive intensity and team unity every day. The 2013-14 Lancers saw an improvement from five to eight wins from the previous campaign and the 2014-15 season saw an improvement to nine wins and a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons.
During the 2015 playoffs the Lancers upset the OUA number two seed and CIS ninth-ranked Ryerson Rams in the quarterfinals and moved to the OUA Final Four for the first time in 10 years. The Lancers battled hard and lost a tight match 3-1 in the OUA semi-finals to the eventual champion and CIS number one-ranked McMaster Marauders. In the bronze medal match the Lancers lost in five tough sets to the York Lions but walked away from the Final Four with much needed playoff experience and the respect of the entire OUA.
Since Windsor’s run to the OUA Final Four, Gravelle has signed four high quality recruits to join the men’s volleyball team in 2015-16. After strong high school and club careers, Roland Bouchard of Scarborough, Ont. and Craig Ireland of Beamsville, Ont. will join the Lancers in an attempt to bring home the school’s first OUA championship. Local high school recruits Kevin Hillman and Dante Civerio of St. Thomas of Villanova High School recently signed their letters of intent and will look to become high-impact players for the Lancers in their careers.
Volleyball Canada’s High Performance Director Julien Boucher said that the quality of the coaches assembled to represent the country speaks for itself.
“Once again, we have assembled a high-quality group of coaches and staff to guide our developing teams this season,” said Julien Boucher. “We are looking forward to a busy and exciting season.”