The playoffs are officially out of reach for the Dinos women’s volleyball team, but their season was by no means a failure.
The year isn’t quite over, but the Dinos were mathematically eliminated last weekend when they split their series with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, ranked third in the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union going in.
"We actually had a good weekend," said coach Kevin Boyles. "We beat the number-three team in the country in their own gym."
The Dinos were downed by the T-Birds in quick fashion on Friday, losing 25-11, 25-20 and 25-17. They returned on Saturday, determined to get revenge, winning 22-25, 25-19, 19-25, 26-24, and 15-10.
"We were beaten soundly on Friday," Boyles continued, "but we came back and played well on Saturday. On Friday, they were a little better prepared for us. They’re a good team, and they expect to beat us, but we weren’t going to worry. The biggest difference was how we approached the game from Friday to Saturday. We took a much less technical approach [on Saturday]. We had to fight for every ball, but we never gave up."
In the fourth set of Saturday’s match, the Dinos were down 21-16, but came back to win 26-24.
"That’s kind of an indicator of the whole match," said Boyles.
"I’ve been with the team four years, and I can’t remember a bigger match than that," echoed second-year Dino Lianne Leonardi. "We had the chance to go out on a big note, so why not?"
"We had nothing to lose, so we came out really strong," added third-year Dino Joanna Pollonais.
Boyles was particularly impressed with the play of Leonardi. Leonardi hasn’t been a starter this year, but has seen her share of action off the bench. Appearing in three sets on Saturday, Leonardi had six kills and three digs, but her true impact can’t be told through statistics. Her attitude makes a consistently strong impression on her teammates.
"We just needed some fire, and if I can come off the bench and do that, that’s good," Leonardi stated.
On a 13-player roster, the Dinos carried seven rookies, including three who started most of the games. Boyles was in his first year as head coach, so no one will deny it was a rebuilding year. Making the playoffs would have been nice, but it will be a more achievable goal a year from now.
The Dinos will close out the season this weekend against the University of Regina Cougars ("A team we should be beating handily," according to Boyles). No matter what the result in Saskatchewan, the team will be pleased with the way the season went, and looking ahead to next year.
"Our goal was to finish the season on a high note," explained Boyles.
"There were so many positives [this season]," added Leonardi. "We’ll worry about [the playoffs] next year."