Greg Howe has had enough breaks; he's just hoping to stay healthy.
The Vancouver Island University Mariners left side attacker missed all of last Pacific Western Athletic Association men's volleyball season with a broken wrist, suffered in a motorcycle accident.
This year, in the M's first preseason game, he blew out his ankle. On the eve of the 2013-14 season, he is finally healthy again and was at practice for the first time on Tuesday, looking to find his timing again.
The Mariners are going to rely on their wings this year, like Howe, and there are few more excited than Friday's home opener against the Camosun Chargers than the Kelowna native. "I've been waiting to play again for a long time," he said. "Having a full year off is weird."
The six-foot-three, 175-pounder was primed for a big break out year last season. But two weeks into training camp, a car cut across three lanes of traffic while Howe was on his Kawasaki ER-6n, cut him off, resulting in a collision.
He landed hard on his right side, straining the AC joint in his shoulder and breaking the radius bone right at his wrist.
Howe required eight screws and a plate to fix the break, and he was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Mariners advanced to the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championships.
It was one of the more difficult things he has had to go through.
"It's a weird feeling training so hard in the off-season and then have it all washed away in a blink of an eye," said Howe, adding that the bike was written off and he has no plans to get back on a new one in the near future.
"But it was good to be with the team and stay with the guys, keep you really positive, it kept my head high and I wanted to keep playing."
He spent all of last year rehabbing and playing beach volleyball back in Kelowna during the summer to get his game back.
Head coach Abe Avender is excited about his potential, if he can stay healthy.
"Poor Greg, I don't know what he did in his first life, he's cursed," he said. "(Before the ankle injury), he was insane. It was the best I had ever seen Greg Howe by 10 probably times, he was jumping well, blocking well, passing well, (he was) really, really good."
Their play on the outside will be critical this year. They are loaded with the likes of Howe, Zach Grigg, Diego Bustos, Dillon Collett, Rylan Brouwer and Niall Cobbe.
That depth will be leaned on heavily, especially with their situation at middle.
"I have never had a team where on the outside we're this deep," said Avender.
They graduated all-Canadian Lee Hamilton at the position this past year. Their returning middles are also injured - Wayne Woyciehouski broke his foot in training camp and Trevor Dykshoorn has a torn ab muscle - leaving them with two freshmen at the position.
It's complicated further for opening night as one of them, Javan Johnson, is away for his sister's wedding. This leaves Salt Spring Island product Carson McCormick as their only available option against the Chargers. However, Avender is toying with the idea of playing to their strength and going without a middle altogether, leaning on their athleticism and depth on the wings.
What this will do is put that much more pressure on star third-year setter Adam Tishenko.
"If you don't have a middle attack, the middle can cheat on the other side of the net, so you have two blocks on you," said Avender. "We're going to have to have something where we run some middle, because if you don't you're offence is too readable. And that's where I think a back row offence is really important."
The other difficulty the lack of a proven middle comes into play is on defence, as it becomes that much more difficult to shut down a good setter. This could become a big issue against Camosun with their top recruit, Brazilian setter Vitor Macedo.
"He runs an amazing show, even good middles get cooked by him," said Avender.
Still, expectations are high for this team. They are eager to book a trip back to nationals after getting their first taste under Avender's watch.
"It was a huge experience for the guys, with 10 of them coming back, they all got to see that," he said. "A lot of them left there with that taste 'I got to get back here,' where as with some programs it's 'Oh my god, we made it, we'll never go back again.' My mentality is I should be at that show every year."
The women start the action on Friday night against the Chargers at 6 p.m. and the men follow at 8 p.m. On Saturday, they play the Chargers again, but in Victoria.
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