Volleysaurs eat the meek

By Lawrence Bailey

One squad was tops in the nation, one was 0-8. Not really the makings of a hard-fought weekend. Nonetheless, the Dinos women’s volleyball team barely squeaked past the cellar-dwelling University of Saskatchewan Huskies by identical 3-2 scores Jan. 9-10 at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.

"I thought Friday we played really poorly," explained Head Coach Kevin Boyles. "We had a bad start [Saturday], but from game two onward it was close because they played really well.

"Our problem is we keep letting teams back in, even with a six- or seven-point lead we can’t relax," he added. "That’s the biggest thing, we have trouble putting teams away."

A lack of killer instinct has plagued the Dinos all year, yet they’ve persevered and retained their #1 national ranking since the preseason.

"Sometimes you think it would be better to lose [the ranking] and play like the underdog, but I think these situations are making us so much better," Boyles mused. "Nationals are a ton of pressure, so if we play under pressure now and play well, when we get under the TV lights at nationals we’ll have experienced the pressure while other teams won’t have been tested as much."

One definite boost as the Dinos kick off the second half of the 2003-04 campaign and push for a national title is the return of veteran middle Jill Friend from offseason shin surgery.

"It’s a very different feeling, being a fifth-year and having to play my way back into the starting rotation," explained Friend, who was half of a formidable tandem at the net last season, alongside the now-graduated Tracy Keats. "I’ll get there though. I’m confident."

Not only does Friend bring the experience of playing in the last three national championships, she further strengthens a trio of middles that have been very impressive thus far, composed of Reid Brodie, Robyn Horner and Sarah Onofrychuk.

"The competition every day at practice makes us all better," said Onofrychuk, Saturday’s player of the game, on Friend’s return to action. "It’s great to have us all pushing each other and backing each other up."

The Dinos will certainly need to bring their "A" game Jan. 16-17 as they travel up Highway 2 to Edmonton to tangle with their arch-rivals and the #2 ranked team in the nation, the University of Alberta Pandas.

"We have to make a statement next weekend," Boyles stated. "If we win, we’re contenders. If we don’t, some people will think we’re pretenders."

Rally Points:

Boyles was a star on the small screen over the holiday break, appearing as a guest commentator on TSN for their coverage of the Canadian men’s national squad who were in action in Japan.

A post-Dino career perhaps? Only time will tell…


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