After their elimination on Saturday at the hands of the Ryerson Rams, the Western Mustangs now look ahead to next season with a strong incoming recruiting class.
Five rookies will arrive in London next season to begin their university careers. Deman Dulat, Brady Fidler, Ryan Scott, Evan Hochman and Eric Pierce will don purple and white in the fall of 2017, and make up what Mustangs head coach Jim Sage describes as one of his best incoming classes.
"We're really excited about the group that has committed," said Sage. "It's a wide range of skills that should give us a lot of depth at positions we needed to fill. They are some of the top players in Ontario so it's one of the best classes since I've started coaching here."
Dulat is a 6'4" left side out of Lakeside Volleyball Club, and judging by his resumé both on the beach and in the gym, the Mustangs will look to Dulat to provide instant production.
Fidler and Scott also join the Mustangs program from Lakeside Volleyball Club. Both athletes were integral members of a Lakeside Volleyball Club that dominated the Ontario Volleyball Association (OVA) this season, taking home a gold and silver medal during the campaign.
Scott, in particular, was one of the OVA's top middles, with his 6'6" frame and impressive history of on-court success making him one of Ontario's highly coveted prospects.
Sage also added a libero to his program, with Hochman joining the Mustangs from TanenbaumCHAT and the Leaside Volleyball Club. Hochman, a captain and MVP at TanenbaumCHAT and one of the top players on a Leaside team that finished fourth at the 2016 Volleyball Canada U17 Championships.
Pierce rounds out the group, joining the program from the Strathroy Saints. The 6'5" right side was a multi-sport athlete at Strathroy District Collegiate Institute.
Although not a position that Sage immediately needed to address, the Mustangs now have two incoming left sides to reinforce roster depth.
"It wasn't an area of immediate concern," said Sage. "But with the left-side starters now starting to get into their third and fourth years we want to replenish them now so those guys have a year or two to figure out the OUA game after the seniors graduate."
After a heartbreaking loss to Ryerson in the OUA quarter-finals, the Mustangs are looking to retool their roster to go on another playoff run, and potentially break through next year to earn a berth in the Final Four.
Although Sage is uneasy to openly vocalize his expectations for the incoming recruits, he hopes that this class can immediately impact the program.
"I hope so," said Sage on whether the class can come in and produce right away. "It's really hard to tell when the recruits come, because it is a big step up from speed of the ball and size of the players. Some make the transition right away and some take, in most cases, two or three years to get up to the level of play where they can compete. But we'll have to see what they've got."
With an impressive recruiting class coming in next year, the Mustangs will return in 2017-18 as one of the OUA's top squads.