The Romans had it good. They were powerful, intimidating and invincible. Opponents cowered at the mere mention of the fantastic legions and told tall tales about the emperor's courage. With six straight national titles, the University of Alberta Pandas are the Romans of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union volleyball world. But just as the glory of Rome didn't last forever, so too Alberta's dynasty had to come to a bloody end. On Feb. 9-10, the Dinos became Alaric and sacked their Northern foes with all the fight and fury of the Visigoths.
Calgary now holds a formidable 20-2 record with 13 straight wins since Nov. 24. It's safe to say the Dinos look poised to make a run at the national title.
"We believe we can win," said Dinos middle Tracy Keats after her team ravaged the Pandas for the second straight night. "We have the most talented team in the country."
Head Coach Kevin Boyles shares her confidence.
"We've gained the respect in Canada West," smiled Boyles. "As for the East--we'll just have to go out and show them."
Dinos fans hope eastern Canada was paying attention when Calgary defeated the tenth-ranked Pandas 3-0 and 3-1 over the weekend. Over the course of both matches, Boyles' team showed not only their skill but also their heart.
After a tough game Friday, the two sides seemed even more intense on Saturday night. They battled to a split in the first two games, but the third set tipped the scales in favour of the young Dinos. Down 24-19, Alisa Marriott served five straight points on the way to victory in the crucial set. Middle Jill Friend had a key block that got the crowd roaring and even a timeout by the Pandas couldn't stop the momentum. The always-amazing Krista Kinsman made key plays down the stretch and the Dinos took the third 28-26.
The fourth and final set was a going away party for fifth-year Dino Janet Bang. Bang feasted on the opposition and got the final kill of the evening and the final kill of her regular season career in Calgary. With that last spike two dominant eras came to an end. Janet Bang will move on after five years in a Dinos jersey and the CIAU title will leave the U of A.
"Our motivation [this weekend] was beating the U of A," said Keats. "Having a chance to put them out of the playoffs was great."
The Dinos now await the winner of next week's showdown between the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan--and if regular season records are any indication, the Thunderbirds just might visit town in two weeks for another classic showdown between the two Canada West rivals.