By Chris Johns
There was some smash-mouth volleyball played at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium last weekend by the University of Calgary Dinos and their northern rivals, the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The Dinos moved into a tie for second place in the Canada West Conference, losing 3-2 on Friday evening and winning 3-2 on Saturday.
The Bears and Dinos are two well-matched teams and there was rarely a gap of more than two points between them. It was a strategic battle as well, with the Dinos starting John Walsh at middle for the injured David Sol. The Bears switched from their starting setter, 6’6" Peter Findlay, to 5’8" Colin Stephenson midway through the match on Saturday. It gave the Bears a new look and required adjustment on the part of the Dinos.
"They are a pretty good team and they had a good change of pace when they put their other setter in," said Dino Coach Greg Ryan. "But we relaxed in the fourth game. That should have been a 3-1 match for us. We had them at 18-16 and then relaxed. We have to stop doing that."
While it would be going too far to say these teams like one another, there is an amount of respect. The Dinos view the Bears as an obstacle on the road to the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union championships and the Bears feel the same way about the Dinos, leading to high-level volleyball. Sure, there was some chirping through the net, but both teams showed why they are likely to meet in the conference play-offs.
For the most part, the Dinos passed better than the Bears, giving setter Jeremy Wilcox a chance to use all his hitters. However, they also gave back plenty of points on missed serves. Where the Dinos truly excelled was in their blocking game. Wes Montgomery shut down Bears power hitter Pascal Cardinal which allowed the Dinos to take over the net play.
"[Friday], they got a few lucky breaks and [Saturday] we took control on our side of the net," said Montgomery. "With this new scoring system, no teams are going to get blown out. Every weekend is a battle.
Ryan walked off the stress of the matches as he talked about his team’s development.
"We don’t yet know how to play well for a whole match," he said. "We are drifting in and out. But the good side is that we played a much more precise match tonight. We had opportunities to win last night but we did things to hurt ourselves. But we grew a bit this weekend."
The Dinos finish their first half schedule hosting Trinity Western University this weekend. Game times are Friday and Saturday at