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Star setter Natalie Schwartz lets out a war cry after saving a ball.
Saad Majoka/the Gauntlet

Dinos coughing up feathers

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In a battle as history-worthy as a Superman vs. Martha Stewart showdown, the Dinos women's volleyball team clashed with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Jan. 7-8. Ranked first and second in Canada respectively, the teams came out determined to keep their perfect 10 records alive. Every melee must name a winner; fortunately for our ladies, that's just what they are.

Friday night, the Dinos came out and showed UBC just how hard they are to beat, winning the match in straight sets. Game one saw a tie at nine before the cavalry was unleashed and a 7-2 run gave our ladies the edge they needed to maintain a lead. Rookie Lauren Perry's seven kills helped the team to a 25-18 triumph.

"Friday night they weren't as strong," Perry admitted.

The second set of the eve was no different. After a marginal 16-13 lead at the technical break, the Dinos pulled away like a Ferrari from a Civic. The final point came from Perry's service ace and gave a final score of 25-17.

Calgary again jumped ahead in the third set and despite a 12-4 T-Bird run later in the game, our ladies hung on to the game 25-18.

Perry gave UBC an offensive shiner with 13 kills, a kill percentage of 58, eight digs and a service ace for the evening. Setter Natalie Schwartz was also astounding for the night, putting up 37 assists. On the defensive side, Neda Boroumand had an oh so sweet 12 digs.

"UBC struggled Friday night," acknowledged Dinos Head Coach Kevin Boyles. "[They were] shaken up by one of their starters rolling her ankle and were surprised with our aggression."

Saturday night there was definitely still struggling, but it was both sides. The games were much longer and closer. The first set was like watching a child play tug of war with a strong dog, neither side seemed to have the power to win but both kept tugging. Despite leading at the break, the Dinos loosened their grip and the T-Birds tied the game at 16. From there the game went almost point by point until UBC finally mustered a block to win the set 28-26.

"They finally just started playing their game again," Schwartz explained.

The second game had the fans biting their nails. A UBC lead at the break was cause for some suspense, but our ladies Gatorades kicked in and they took the set 25-21.

The third set saw UBC chip away at a Dino lead, tying the game at 19. But that was all, over the next eight points our ladies brought the score to a 25-21 win. Set four was a similar game, with UBC gnawing on our ladies lead, finally tying the game 22-22. The Dinos turned the dial on the electric chair to liquefy and strapped the T-Birds in. They executed nicely on the next three points for a 25-22 win.

"It was a pretty big relief," Schwartz sighed. "When it was over I felt like I could breathe again. There was a weight lifted off my shoulders."

Schwartz again amazed attending aficionados accumulating an awesome 45 assists. Joanna Niemczewska led the offence with 16 kills and 11 digs.

The wins maintain the Dinos number one ranking and a now 12-0 record. The T-Birds have been demoted to Canada's third best team and their record falls to 10-2. So with the toughest competition out of the way, what next?

"We're looking to go undefeated," Boyles prophesied. "We're in good position to host the Canada West final four."

But first things first, the Dinos meet the University of Manitoba Bisons Jan. 14-15 an away series.

Rally Points

For her skills and leadership against a very worthy rival, Schwartz was named Canada West Female Athlete of the Week. At 59 and a youthful 21 years of age she towers over those who are below average height. She was an offensive key all weekend, setting beautifully for the power hitters to kill the T-Birds.

Over the two matches she tallied 82 set assists, but that wasn't all. She also accrued 11 digs, seven kills and four assisted blocks.

The fourth year setter is co-captain of the team and sits comfortably in second place for assists per game on the Canada West charts. To her coach though, she is second to none.

"She's been the best in the country," Boyles gleamed.

Hopefully she can continue to excel throughout the year, leading her team to their title defence. Good luck!

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