Mustangs Bring in Six New Recruits
Western Mustangs Men's VolleyballGreg Bowman
With another season in the books, the Western Mustangs Men’s Volleyball team shifted their focus on bringing in some new faces, with the 2019 recruiting class recently being announced.
Possibly one of the biggest holes the Mustangs needed to fill was their setter, as Matt Hooker graduated after his fifth season, going down as one of the best players to ever come through Western’s Men’s Volleyball program. To fill the huge void, Head Coach Jim Sage and the Mustangs went out and recruited two setters with a third on his way.
Starting with Jack Cochrane, he will be attending Western hailing out of Calgary, Alberta. The 6’2 setter has a decorated youth career, co-captaining Team Alberta’s U-16 and U-17 teams where they placed third and second, respectively. He was also the Most Valuable Player for his high school team, while captaining his club team, Canuck, in both U-16 and U-17, where they placed third at the club nationals in his U-16 year, and earning the Heart and Hustle Award in his U-17 season. “He has a ton of experience,” coach Jim Sage said about his new recruit, lamenting the experience he has as the co-captain of the provincial team.
Josiah Esau is another setter the Mustangs have brought in, winning an OFSAA championship at the highschool level in 2018. The St. Catharine’s, Ontario native was the captain of Team Ontario in 2017, the captain of his Niagara Rapids club team for five years, and the captain and two-time MVP of his highschool team where he won both an OFSAA gold and silver medal. Esau was also on the honour role of his high school for all four years, and maintained a 90% average, looking to continue his studies at Western while also getting the chance to play volleyball. As it stands, Esau is has the best chance of cracking the starting lineup: “it’s sort of Josiah’s [position] to earn and take over… is what has been told to him and the team. But it’s competitive and he knows that and he’s ready for the challenge. He wants that challenge so until he loses that spot then it’s sort of his, and that’s how we recruited him,” explained Sage.
Jason Guy is being brought in as a force on the outside, measuring at 6’6. The Stratford, Ontario product has been involved in Team Ontario’s program for the past three years, travelling to France with the team in his U-18 year. The multi-sport athlete was the MVP of both his highschool volleyball and basketball teams in three of his four years, all while maintaining a 90% average throughout. “He’s a big, strong athlete that just needs a little bit of fine tuning. But the upside is off the charts right now and I think he’s going to come into his own here… Every time he’s been out, he’s done something eye-catching,” said Sage about the most local player he recruited.
The cross-Canada recruiting class reaches the Pacific too, with Rhys Matheson set to come to Western from Vancouver, BC. The libero will join a team that is “over-libero’d” as coach Sage puts it. At 6’0, Matheson was a member of Team BC for three years, and captained his Air Attack club team in his U-18 year where he also won the Leadership Award on two occasions. “He wanted to come here, and I said ‘if you want to come here, I’ll give you a spot on the team. He could be one of the top young liberos in Canada,” praised Sage on his new libero.
Another west coast product, Nate Prokopich, is the lone middle hitter in the 2019 recruiting class. The Surrey, BC native brings a winning pedigree to the Mustangs, winning a bronze medal at the Canada Cup, winning a provincial championship with his high school and taking home multiple provincial gold medals with his club team. He won MVPs in multiple tournaments, including an all-star game held by UBC. On top of his accomplishments on the court, Prokopich had a 4.0 GPA throughout high school, getting advanced placement in calculus and receiving math honours. “Nick was one of the top middles out of BC [who] was still waiting to see where he wanted to go to school and I think we sold it on him that I think he’d be perfect for our club,” said Jim Sage on his lone recruit for the middle.
Josh Thorson is another out-of-province recruit for the Mustangs, coming in from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The outside hitter is only 6’3, but possesses a lot of power and athleticism to make an impact. He is the winner of the 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games volleyball tournament, and won a silver medal as the captain of Team Saskatchewan, while also winning two provincial championships with his club team.
The six recruits will join a team that lost their star setter, an outside hitter and a middle hitter. The Mustangs have failed to reach the OUA Final Four for the fifth straight season despite making reaching the OUA quarterfinals. The future is bright though, as they possess a superstar in the making with Jackson Bere, who was the OUA West Rookie of the Year and on the U Sports All-Rookie team, leading the OUA with a .421 hitting percentage.
The six recruits, and the rest of the Mustangs will open up training camp at the end of the summer in preparation for another season with high expectations.