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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
A Capreol-Confederation-Cambrian connection is forged
by Randy Pascal

It wasn't as though Cambrian Golden Shield men's volleyball coach Tom Sutton went out of his way to forge a Capreol connection. It just kind of worked out that way.

In fact, you could call it a Capreol/Confederation/Cambrian connection, truth be told.

Recruiting a pair of long-time multi-sport athletes who very gradually have grown more attached to their current OCAA pursuit, Sutton has worked local setter Josh Kneblewski and middle Alex Tegman into his starting rotation, with both young men completely committed to reaching their full potential prior to graduation a few years from now.

A goaltender in the “AA” hockey ranks through much of his childhood, Kneblewski is in his second year of Civil Engineering, focused on finishing year three before transitioning over to a bridge program at Lakehead University, hopefully in the fall of 2020.

“Obviously, I've played hockey for as long as I can remember,” noted the 20 year-old student athlete. “It's the first thing I was put into. But in grade ten, I tried out for the Regional (volleyball) team for the (Ontario) Winter Games, and I made it for that.”

While the Confederation Chargers have garnered a degree of success on the volleyball court over the years, the overwhelming majority of any recent championships have come courtesy of the girls' teams, with the lads typically toiling away in the Division II ranks.

“At Confed, we could kind of play everywhere, we could try anything that we wanted to,” said Kneblewski. Still, there was enough of an athletic base to peak the interest of Sutton, stumbling upon a young recruit more than willing to put in the work.

“It doesn't matter what team you are playing for, if you're committed, the coaches will put in the time, and you will get the most out of it,” said Kneblewski. If anything, the one-time graduate of the volleyball factory that is C.R. Judd Public School in Capreol (with long-time coach, Craig Thomson) had to learn to dial down the intensity just a notch, at least in terms of the way that he looked at his own play on the court.

“As a setter, if you make a mistake, you move on,” he stated. “There's 25 points in a set, so you get ready for the next point. But being a goalie, if someone scored on me, I would get upset and feel like I was letting everybody down. For the first couple of months (at Cambrian), it was really difficult, because I would beat myself up over a bad set.”

Sutton was more than aware that some patience would be required. He also knew that substantial progress, over time, was likely. “Practicing a lot with our coaches has pushed me to do stuff that I wasn't able to do before,” said Kneblewski. “Being able to recognize where people are on the court, and getting the ball to the guys who are going to have a better potential to score, I think that is probably where my biggest improvement is.”

The story of Alex Tegman is awfully similar. The 20 year-old first year student in Physical Fitness Management might have a slightly more varied sporting background, throwing in a heavy dose of time spent on the basketball court along with his hockey career, albeit with most of the latter occurring in the local houseleague loops.

“I liked to play a lot of different sports,” recalled Tegman. “I started volleyball in elementary, at Judd, and kind of fell in love with it there. But it was at tryouts for beach volleyball, while I was in high school, when I first met Tom.”

In this case, the potential recruit could understand the raw potential the college coach was seeing. “I knew that I could play to this level, but I knew it would be a lot faster,” said Tegman. “I knew that I was physically able to adapt, because I have played a lot of basketball and I have a pretty good vertical. Volleyball has a lot to do with your vertical, so I knew that I was OK there.”

There is, however, a big difference between simply being a pretty good athlete, and being a pretty good volleyball player. “In high school, it was pretty much set Alex and let him hit,” said Tegman with a laugh. “But now, I'm playing against guys who actually know the game. It's not enough for me to just go up and hit the ball, I have to go up and strategically hit the ball.”

“We're running so many different plays – I never ran a quick in high school,” added the 6'4” freshman. Like his former Charger schoolmate, Tegman is all in when it comes to getting better. “It's definitely a lot different just focusing on the one sport,” he said. “It used to be that if I had a bad game of basketball, well, I had a hockey game tomorrow to get over it.”

“Now, it's volleyball every day, volleyball every weekend. You have to be mentally tough, always focused on getting better, watching tape. You just learn so much more about the sport. I appreciate it a lot more now.”

And armed with a perspective that covers much of the gamut of sports, Tegman can provide an interesting contrast in outlining at least one key area where volleyball prevails. “I like volleyball because after every play, you can always restart,” he noted. “You can brush off what just happened. It's not like a stretch in hockey or basketball, where it just keeps going.”

“There are 25 times for you to refocus and better yourself.”

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